Tea Goes Global: Patterns of Migration, Trade and Conquest in the Indian Ocean Over Time

Author: Joan Brodsky Schur
While tea has been consumed in China for over 2000 years, it took many centuries before Europeans were introduced to this bitter beverage and learned to enjoy it, thanks to the addition of sugar. This lesson traces the history of tea (and tea-drinking accoutrements) within and beyond Asia, beginning in the Classical Era up through the 20th century. The tea trade changed not only economies but also social rituals. Even as Europeans adopted their own tea-drinking habits, they enjoyed drinking tea from imported Chinese porcelain teacups and teapots typically designed with cobalt blue patterns. Eventually Europeans manufactured their own chinaware with designs that looked Chinese –– Chinoiserie–– but due to differences in geography, Europeans could never produce tea or sugar in Europe. European dependence on imported tea had world-wide consequences.

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