I’ve just been reading about Satish Kumar. In 1962, he (and his BFF) set out on an 8000 mile walk they called the “Pilgrimage for peace”. Armed with just 4 bags of tea, they aimed to disarm the world by suggesting to it’s nuclear power leaders “when you think you need to press the button, stop for a minute and have a fresh cup of tea”. An extraordinary undertaking, especially when you consider that they did this on a budget of $0, having faith in human kindness (and tea) to carry them through.
All they were sa-ay-ing, was give tea a chance. Sorry.
After air and water, tea in the most widely consumed substance on the planet. Fact. Originally thought of as a medicine with energising qualities, tea was widely regarded in China for over 4 thousand years. In the UK, it went from an unknown substance up to the 1660s, to being something that today is consumed at the rate of 165 million cups per day.
“Empires we’re built on commerce, not conquest” goes the old colonial history lesson. It’s true though, and tea, as a commodity, was one of the huge building block in the The British Empire. It was the birth of globalization if you think about it. Tea, linked Britain to China and although the Chinese weren’t that interested in our commodities, (for instance, wool) they were interested in commodities from India – British controlled India. Particularly things like cotton and opium. This formed a trade route that connected England to India to China, known as the Eastern Triangular Trade Route. At the same time, there was the Western Triangle Trade Route, hooking up England, Africa and The West Indies where largely ‘thanks’ to our insatiable desire for sugar in our tea, slaves from Africa were taken to The West Indies to produce sugar for our tea.
I’m a tea drinker. Some people can’t operate without a coffee first thing. Others like me, need tea. I was pretty much weaned on the stuff. I was given tea by my Nana, from before I could walk. I have fond memories of the very mugs (greeny brown, solid earthenware numbers) it was served in, along with their accompanying egg and soldiers. My Nana’s generation had to live through rationing, where tea was restricted until 1952. Imagine being told “steady on with the tea” for all those years, then being told – go on then – have as much as you like. No wonder she dished it out to her grand-kids with such aplomb.
You can’t beat a nice cup of tea and a sit down to make something fractionally better than it was before. As well as being a mild narcotic (sorry to strip the romance away from it, but at the end of the day, that’s a strong part of why we like it) it’s actually considered by some as something that’s good for you. As well as a natural source of fluoride, it’s an antioxidant, which some believe has the potential to cure cancer. Now there’s a good enough reason to drink it if ever I’ve heard one.
I’m going to end this blog by filling you in on a secret. It’s how to sucker anyone into making a cup of tea for you. It goes like this.
You “What do you call them bits of plastic you put underneath a golf ball to steady it again?”
Imminent tea wallah “A tee.”
You “Ooh, yes please! Milk and one sugar in mine, thanks.”