Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

October 12, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

Tea: A History of Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire, by Roy Moxham. Carroll & Graf. 224 pages. $21.

Moxham understands tea -- especially as an addiction. Hired on, in London, to manage a tea plantation in Nyasaland when he was 21, he learned the trade from the ground up. That was in 1960. Now comes the consummation of his fascination, a very seriously researched history of tea -- or, rather, of tea and its role in and relationships to things British. Other European nations took to it earlier, but it was Britain in which it became a universal obsession, a huge industry and the cause of plunder, wars and adventures. Moxham, who in 2001 wrote The Great Hedge of India, traces all this diligently, cogently and -- if you take to any aspect of the subject -- compellingly. A provocative, surprisingly fresh-tasting and intelligent volume.

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