Beatrice Hohenegger has written history of the tea trade between Asia and the West that is well researched and scholarly, but reads, at times, like an adventure novel complete with a Scottish spy. She goes to the roots of what we now call globalization, and exposes it’s truly dark practices, as the East India Company establishes the first global corporate business model. What she is able to do, quite effectively, is move the history, that most of people view in a detached, it happen long time ago way, and place in squarely in our 21st century tea cabinets. She reminds us that before there was oil dominating geopolitical dynamics, there was tea and opium. Still, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world next to water and be with use long after the oil drys up.
It is clear to see that she has discovered the sense of wonder and adventure that has entranced tea devotees for thousands of years, inspired great philosophers and poets, motivated great crimes and wars, and helped to shape the scope history of the world for the last five hundred years. She does a good job of passing that on to the reader. She passes on the roots of tragedy, fueled by hubris and greed, that brought down the last Chinese Dynasty, and created the sundown for the British Empire, all for a cup of tea.
She also offers some solutions that point us to a future of global sustainability, in the case of tea, fair trade, organics, quality, and business integrity. It would seem that in her discovery of tea, she has also come to care for and be an advocate for the poor country people that have suffered and continue to suffer from the tea trades bitter cruelty. She does so with a writing skill that keeps you turning pages, without becoming heavy handed or preachy .
It is surprising that most people of have such limited understanding of the historical significance of tea, but that will surely change after reading Liquid Jade. I have often been frustrated by the lack of good tea literature about tea in English, but we can hope that Beatrice Hohenegger’s hard work will raise the standards for future books on tea and tea culture. Reading her book may start that tea adventure for you, or if you already on that road add to your experience.