Would You Kill For A Cuppa?
What do you think of when you think of Tea?
Do you reminisce on quiet rainy afternoons spent with a hot mug warming your bones?
Do you think of fancy elevenses with cakes and scones in manor houses?
How about years of war, slavery and drug abuse?
Maybe you should.
Tea isn’t your sweet and sensitive friend, offering you a liquid hug after a troubling day. Tea is a murderous motherfucker.
Ain’t nobody fuck with Tea
Legend has it that tea was discovered in the year 2737 BC, when the Chinese Emperor Shennong was sat feeling thirsty beneath a tree and had the bright idea of bunging a few of the leaves in with some water.
He took a few sips and decided that this stuff was mad dope — and thus, tea, was born. For a few thousand years, China was basically running shit in the tea game. Then the 10th century rolled about, and being the entrepreneurial, money loving sorts they were, they decided to export it.
Everything ran pretty smoothly for a few more hundred years; but then it was introduced to the British in 1654 — that’s when shit really hit the fan.
Funnily enough it was originally sold in London’s Coffee Houses (turns out we had Coffee before we had Tea; who knew? Not me, I don’t drink coffee, so someone else can write that article) and it was a massive hit.
People were going nuts over it; it was like that new Justin Bieber album, the one that’s actually pretty decent. By 1700 there were over 500 Coffee Houses selling it, which put a bit of strain on the taverns.
They weren’t best pleased because it was cutting into the booze sales — and soon enough, government weren’t too chuffed either, they were losing out on their tax revenues from lash hounds turning to a cuppa instead of a pint.
After a failed attempt to ban the sale of tea, followed by forcing Coffee Houses to apply for a license to sell that amber nectar, they decide to tax the crap out of it. We’re talking 119% duty on Tea entering Britain (I don’t know how that works, I’m not the fucking tax man, but that’s what they did, probably the Tories, sounds like the sort of thing they’d do doesn’t it?).
Sneaky bunch of sods we are, we didn’t much like paying that much for our tea either, which kicked off another little enterprise — tea smuggling. There was a bunch of faffing about with local fisherman, hiding tea in parish churches, and even cutting the product with other shit so you could sell more from less tea; Howard Marks would be proud.
Eventually that particular faff was sorted with the tax being dropped and everything was looking hunky dory. Until the Qing Dynasty’s Qianlong Emperor let it all go a bit to his head and had a realisation — China was basically the be all and end all of the world. We wanted their porcelain, their silk and their tea. They wanted our… well bugger all really. So the old Qing King figured, if you foreigners want the good stuff, you’ll have to pay for it in Silver.
The tea junkies in Britain were clutching at their teaspoons, demanding their fix, and so naturally, we decided to follow the most sensible course of action and half bankrupt ourselves by using up all our silver bullion to pay for it.
Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that people as a whole aren’t very nice.
There’s a whole bunch of reasons to think that.
ISIS are kind of dicks.
Donald Trump is being a total cockwomble and getting everyone in a tizzy about Mexicans.
The lady working in my sandwich shop can’t seem to grasp the concept that I only want half a fucking a slice of cheese in my ciabatta (a whole slice interrupts the other flavours, and besides, I’m watching my figure).
The world is a dark place; which inevitably turns us into darker versions of ourselves.
But I have a question for you.
You know those times you said you’d kill for a cuppa right now — would you?
Would you legitimately murder someone for a brew?
Would you wrap your hands around their throat, squeeze until their desperate flails became weaker and weaker, look them in the eye as you see the light fade from their soul — all for some tea?
Because that’s basically what we did.
We were pissed about that whole situ with the silver bullion, so we figured out a way to keep getting that sweet, sweet tea and get our money back.
We got China addicted to Opium.
We grew the crap out of it in India and sold it to independent traders for silver, who then sold it on across China.
They were lapping it up, and it got so bad that in 1839 the Daoguang Emperor (also Qing Dynasty in case you were wondering) appointed a dude called Lin to do something about.
Lin didn’t fuck about. He confiscated of 1200 Tons of the stuff and refused to offer any compensation. Not only that, his soldiers boarded British ships in international waters and destroyed any Opium they found there.
This meant war. I mean, literally.
It was the start of the first Opium War.
It resulted in the start of what was referred to by Chinese historians as “The Century of Humiliation”, one hundred years of intervention and imperialism by Western and Japanese powers.
Of course we still needed that sweet, sweet tea — so we smuggled out tea plants from China and forced colonised India to grow a fuck-tonne of it, all while we were destroying the Qing Dynasty’s legacy in China and getting an entire nation addicted to Opium — all to get some cashback (no Sainsbury’s in those days sadly).
And talking of “sweet” tea, while all this was happening, we’d decided that actually, we quite enjoy a bit of sugar with our tea. Considering how much we were drinking by this point, we needed cheaper sugar — and this pretty much kicked off the slave trade.
Plantations were founded in the Caribbean, East Africa and South America to name a few. Millions of slaves from West Africa and indentured labourers from South Asia were brought in and forced to work these plantations.
The ethnic melting pots of so many countries that were settled in the last 200 years are largely down to the fact that a few hundred years ago, the Brits were partial to a builder’s tea.
Millions dead, the future of two of the largest countries in the world irreparably changed and the most prolific and horrendous slave trade in human history kicked off. All in the name of tea.
So I’ll ask you again…
Would you kill for a cuppa?
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