Discover The Darker Side Of Tea

Although you might stir in your milk in the morning without batting an eyelid, there is a side of tea that manufacturers and distributers do not want you to know. The global demand of the product has been an issue for centuries and as with most profitable enterprises there is a darker side to tea. Whenever mass profits are concerned there is no doubt that there are stories of human rights abuses and many of them are in the not too distant past.

The leaf is claimed to have originated in the area around India, China and Tibet and the dark associations of tea began with its mythical origins. According to a legend dating back to the Tang dynasty, the founder of the Zen Buddhist religion known as Chan had been meditating in front of a wall for nine years when he fell asleep; shocked by his weakness he proceeded to cut off his eyelids and discard them on the ground where a tea bush began to grow.

Tea certainly has its cultural origins in China dating back thousands of years. Chinese philosophers and physicians have been quoted throughout the centuries discussing the benefits of drinking it. Ceremonies have been a part of Chinese culture for millennia however not everything is a calm and tranquil when it came to the exotic leaf. As the Chinese might have you believe it was the western influence that caused the trouble.

The Venetian Marco Polo was one of the first western explorers to discover the drink during his travels in the late thirteenth century. He reported witnessing an implementation of a high tax on the produce when visiting with the Chinese minister of finance and other explorers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries reported on the mystical herb. After various missionary expeditions the Portuguese set up a trading port in Macau and then the Brits arrived.

Due to the superior weight of the British navy, the British merchant traders thrived from the Chinese markets and tea became an global phenomenon. This was amongst other products including Chinese fine china and silk. The British traders were not happy with the profits they were making from tea and began importing opium to China despite several empirical decrees. In 1839 the first Opium War broke out where traders and their tea stock were imprisoned on the Chinese mainland.

The British navy was supremely underestimated and the Chinese were crushed, the opium importing continued and the Chinese responded with the second opium war. During this time tea supplies were drying up and a member of the British Expeditionary force planted Chinese seeds and tea began being produced in India where there were not the same trade restrictions as China. The leaf began to be embedded in Indian culture with natural Indian seeds used.

India is now the world's largest producer of tea however it seems that the problems have followed the leaf. Now the Assam tea wars are still alleged to be raging in parts of India. Organised criminals are attempting to assume control of plantations and there were a string of high profile multiple murders of plantation owners and their families in 2001.

There is a darker side to tea however it seems that the sustained commercial value of the leaf is what has caused the problems. It seems that wherever there is commercial value there is someone waiting to exploit another human to maximise profit. Luckily there are ethical producers and importers of tea that can be easily found over the internet so that the darker side of tea does not have to be indulged.

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About The Author, Dominic Donaldson
Dominic Donaldson is an expert on tea and contributes to trade publications on the subject.Learn more about tea at