Cover Image: A Dark History of Tea

A Dark History of Tea

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Make a cup of your favorite tea and sit back to enjoy this marvelous history of tea. 
This is exemplary body of work of the history of tea, its origins and the history that framed tea .  I appreciate that the author gave the reader a history of tea in china, its import to other areas and how it is grown and farmed.  This truly gives the reader insight as to the intricacies of growing different types of tea. He also speaks to the beliefs behind tea and its qualities to heal and transform. 
 I enjoyed the British history here with extensive information on the tea trade, how it framed wars and became a staple of English life that it is today. I was raised on tea as my Mother was English/Scottish and tea remains of utmost importance in my life .   When one has a true appreciation for tea this is the book to read to learn its origins. Very well done . I highly recommend this book. 

Thank you to the publisher and to the author for the opportunity. My review opinion is my own. This is a exceptional body of work .
Was this review helpful?
Review: A Dark History Of Tea by Serena Charrington Hollins. 
A Dark History of Tea looks at our long relationship with this most revered of hot beverages. Renowned food historian Seren Charrington-Hollins digs into the history of one of the world’s oldest beverages, tracing tea's significance on the tables of the high and mighty as well as providing relief for workers who had to contend with the ardours of manual labour.

As a big fan of this drink, when I saw this book appear on NetGalley recently, I was intrigued. You hear about events such as the Boston Tea Party but that’s kind of it and really there is so much more to tea than that, and the author in this book truly spills the tea on this drink’s roots. Covering a range of periods and areas, even ones I didn’t expect! For example witchcraft this book focuses on China in the beginning and then of course the links between tea and colonialism in the British Empire.  

Though dense in moments, which sometimes put me off a little, this book does deliver in a short read a lot of fascinating and intriguing information and if you are interested by the area this is perfect for you, but if you are looking for citations then there are only a few, so I would recommend a more thorough book.

An insight into the English perspective of tea and its history with colonialism and war, A Dark History Of Tea certainly makes clear that what we drink today and is considered deeply British, is just another thing we took when we took over countries. 

(I received this book from Netgalley for honest review).
Was this review helpful?
I enjoy drinking tea and was intrigued to learn more about the history of tea.

It's certainly a history with darkness.  In particular, the author discusses the role of tea in the Opium Wars between Britain and China, and in the gruesome history of smuggling.. The early adulteration of tea is pretty grim too.

The author does sometimes go into great detail on matters that barely touch the history of tea. The goings on at a certain Coffee House for example, or baby farming.

The book doesn't always flow as well as it might, as the author jumps in time as they move between themes, but the rich choice of subject matter makes up for any deficiencies. There are plenty of good illustrations. too.

It is a rather Anglo-centric history, albeit beginning with the history of tea in China. Though Britain has surely played a pivotal role in the more recent history of tea.
Was this review helpful?
I love tea and I love history, so this is the perfect book for me! This history of tea from food historian Seren Charrington-Hollins was well-researched and very readable. I appreciated the illustrations which were well-chosen and interesting. There were many interesting stories and I learned a lot. For example, the section on the adulteration of tea was fascinating and horrifying. 

 I can highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys tea and/or history.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! I will never take my humble teabag for granted again. I read each chapter of this book with growing fascination and in some instances horror. Would love to see a tea brick. Particularly intrigues by the chapter about witchcraft, scrying and sorcery with tea and tea leaves. Who knew there was so much in the history of something I use every day without a second thought. Overall a very interesting read which greatly added to my knowledge of history and tradition.
Was this review helpful?
A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley and Pen & Sword in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  

Content warnings: Racism, drug addiction, sexual assault, slavery, murder. 

My rating: 4 books out of 5

Highlights: 
From tree to mug the story of tea is anything but boring. 
I find it fascinating how one thing can have such a profound effect on the politics and history of a nation. 
Life might be hard but at least there’s not dung in our tea any more. 
People used to plan historical uprisings in coffee houses so we haven’t changed that much to be honest. 
If only people had protested racism and sexism with the same vehemence they protested the King trying to shut said coffee houses. Again, haven't changed that much. 
There’s a list of tea spells at the back!

Tea enjoyment is seen as one of life’s most basic and natural pleasures, but the rise of tea consumption in Europe and Britain is stained with tears and corruption.

A cup of tea. For me, there’s little more peaceful and comforting than a cuppa and a book. I’m drinking tea as I write this, I drank an awful lot of it while I read this book. Despite my liking for a cup of coffee on a Monday morning, or a night time hot chocolate, it’s tea I fall back on in times of stress or sadness. 

And there’s been rather a lot of that going around lately, hasn’t there? 

While there’s little more quintessentially British than a cup of tea and a chat, the plant isn’t native to our little island. It’s not even native to our continent. A drink so old its discovery predates any written history beyond myth and legend, tea is fundamentally Chinese in origin. Of course, once European travellers discovered it, things changed. Two wars and a revolution later, here I am drinking my cuppa from a mug with a fairytale landscape on it. And thank goodness it doesn’t contain floor sweepings, poison or animal waste. 

At least I really hope it doesn’t, it’s my favourite type. I’d hate to have to change. 

This book was absolutely fascinating, both for the history of tea itself and for the illuminating glimpse into the history of the country I call home. I took an AS level in history - I still to this day cannot escape Gladstone and Disraeli (no really I bought hot chocolate and the receipt had a Gladstone quote at the bottom) - and the way colonialism affected our modern views of literature was a topic I covered at university (spoiler alert: if it wasn’t by a white dude it rarely made it big), so while I’m hardly an expert I did recognise a few names and events mentioned. However, a lot of this stuff was entirely new to me. And pretty much all of it was horrifying. 

History is in many ways cyclical, but it was chilling to see the sort of rhetoric spread about Chinese immigrants over a hundred years ago, especially when you hold it up to the sort spread about immigrants in general nowadays. It’s almost identical. There has always been political power in getting voters to unite in hating the same people. 

So while I knew the history of the humble tea leaf wouldn’t be idyllic, this was a JOURNEY of war, racism, drug addiction, shady business dealings, murder and witchcraft. 

Yup, it really does have everything. 

The main thing I had against this book going through was that the narrative of it wasn’t entirely linear. It followed a mostly chronological setup in terms of time passing, but had a tendency to bounce about a bit when further discussing certain topics - like the opium trade or the nasty state of many a Victorian larder - and as someone for whom dates do not come naturally, I found myself getting a little confused from time to time. There was a lot of ‘wait didn’t we already cover that bit? Isn’t it the 1800s now? Okay no...okay back to the 1800s’ but let’s all remember there’s a high chance that this is for two reasons:

I am an idiot
I read this in lockdown and my brain was slowly turning to mush. I couldn’t even remember the current date. Still can’t tbh, it’s just somewhere between January and inevitable death. 

So if you’re a historically minded person you may not find that this is an issue. Just be aware going in that there are callbacks to earlier dates throughout. 

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. Despite the slight confusion from the non-linear dates I took away a great deal from the reading experience that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Even something as simple as a cup of tea with breakfast has a dark and storied history that might just change the way you look at it.
Was this review helpful?
interesting history of Tea and how it became Britain's drink of choice.  From its earliest beginnings in China to the inception of Indian tea growing. How tea was first introduced into England and gradually over time became the preferred drink of the poor.  The very fact that tea itself became a currency gives some idea of its importance from those who grew it, traded it, and enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book!  It is full of a dark and rich history that most of never even think twice about. Where does your tea come from? How did tea become such popular drink in Europe and the US when it comes from so very far away. All this and more is explained in detailed and sometimes amusing accounts and stories of the dark history of tea.
Was this review helpful?
What an educational and phenomenal read! Anyone who is a lover of tea knows at least some of the specifics of this favored beverage. Tea itself is not without its own history, but the leaves that make the tea also are profoundly mesmerizing. For example: the different types of tea per the leaves used the make it (black, white, green, herbal, rooibos, etc), the temperature at which to brew the specific type of tea leaves, how the region from whence it was produced can alter the flavor profile, etc. 

The amount of history alone that can be told just from the simple act of brewing a cup of tea is astonishing. I knew I had to read this when I saw it, and any tea lover/history buff will feel the same. I have long been fascinated with tea and its origins after learning something about tea that has become one of my favorite tea-related "fun facts." I learned this in my early teens and have always somewhat enjoyed things of a macabre variety so, once I had learned it, I had committed it to memory and enjoyed learning more about tea and its dark past. This tea fact is that the act of dried leaves becoming saturated with the water and unfurling is known as "the agony of the leaves." This book opened my eyes to a history I knew little of but was eager to know more about. Any don't forget to drink a cup of tea while you ponder the pages within the book, it will only further immerse you in its tale.
Was this review helpful?
Brilliant and fascinating, this book the dark history behind the nation's favourite drink. I really enjoyed the exploration of the folklore surrounding tea.
Was this review helpful?
I liked this but blimey it's wordy. It's an enjoyable history of the British history of tea; only the opening chapter focuses on China & very interesting. It covers a lot if ground including the introduction of opium wars, the relationship with India and even witchcraft. For a fairly short book it does pack in a lot of information and I think for me a few too many words as it made it feel quite heavy sometimes. Overall, enjoyable and I learnt quite a bit.
Was this review helpful?
Tea is my favourite thing to drink. I prefer plain and simple green tea, without milk. Naturally I highly enjoyed this informative and well written book on tea.


 "Tea’s proper use is to amuse the idle, and relax the studious, and dilute the full meals of those who cannot use exercise, and will not use abstinence." [ Samuel Johnson]


See, tea is an innocent, proper and prim drink. Well you thought so. Who knew tea had a strong connection to opium ? Do you know about imitation black tea? "Imitation black tea often contained hawthorn, ash and sloe leaves combined with chamber lye (the contents of the chamber pot) or animal dung and bran. Once ground down it was said that such a mixture strongly resembled the popular Bohea tea." 


There are some sensational and gruesome stories of murder, the cause? Tea, obviously. People killed because of their tea business, people killed people by poisoning their tea, people wanted profit so they adulterated tea thus rendering it poisonous. The public fear about adulterated tea was so great that tea dealers were treated "‘almost as a secret assassin, ready to enter every man’s house to poison him and his family. It almost converted the English into a nation of botanists." 

 

The negative impact of tea was so rampant that Wesley [an Anglican minister] even offered advice on how to deal with the awkward social situation of declining the offer of taking tea.


This book discusses in great length about the popularity,negativity,positivity,colonialism and other paraphernalia that came with tea as a profitable product [it even contains a chapter on how to read tea leaves ]. 


Of course, there is slog which is kind of unavoidable in non-fiction. There must be some boring details and datas. On the other hand the book is full of pictures! 



* ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review .
Was this review helpful?
trigger warning
 child rape, being drugged, infanticide, abortion, drug abuse, alcoholism, racism, torture, human trafficking, miscarriage, slavery, use of the slur "gypsy" 

This book tells the history of tea made out of the tea-plant. The mythological origins in China, how it arrived in Europe, became famous. How wars were fought in order to finance the import.

Let me start with the title of this book. It should be "A Dark History of Tea in Britain", because this book is anglocentric. I thought I had a general history of tea here, but no. It goes so far, that the author speaks of "we" when talking about british people. 
While it starts off with the history of tea in China and Japan, and we get some small allusions to other European countries, once you reach the Opium wars, the book doesn't even pretend anymore that there are countries aside from the empire. The way this was handled felt jarring. It would have been so easy to just say in the introduction that it's a huge field so the author is concentrating on one area, and it would have been fine.

Point two. The footnotes. There are exactly 10.
Need I say more or should I elaborate? 
It's just... where did you get your facts? Where, exactly, could I look something up if I want to go in deeper on that aspect? A small list of literature at the back is not enough. 
Even if you were to say we don't do footnotes, how come there are exactly 10? It felt as if the author remembered in one chapter that there are ways to do this, and then forgot again.
I looked up on the Netgalley profile if I was given an unfinished proof, but I can't find anything on that.

Next problem: The writing. There is this weird thing going on where on one hand, the author beats around the bush and refrains from clearly naming things. The feces used to contaminate tea are "contents of a champer pot", for example. On the other hand, if there is the opportunity to use outdated and offensive language to describe people, it is done. It's 2020 everyone, you should know better than to use "gypsy" in earnest.

At the end, every pretense of writing some serious nonfiction is thrown over board with listing recipes for magic rituals without naming the source - yeah, common problem in this book - or any details or having any kind or consistent formatting.

Even if you'd say I have an unfinished proof, the writing style is more than just iffy. You'd have to say unedited. I really don't know what to make of this.

I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Pen and Sword and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review!  

As someone who consumes a good 6+ cups of tea a day, I knew that this was a history book for me. It isn't a completely in-depth history of tea, but it does give a good basis on how tea arrived in Britain, the trajectory of its status in Britain, and how the market evolved. As the title might imply, it doesn't attempt to hide the dark and problematic history of tea in Britain, and the relationships between Britain and China, and Britain and India. Excellent use and inclusion of primary sources! 

My only fault with the book is that it should be titled A Dark History of Tea in Britain, as it really only looks at Britain. It is a wonderful study of that, but to be clear, I would reflect that in the title.
Was this review helpful?
Good look at the history of tea and how it grew to the drink we know and the relations between countries. War, leisure, companies and more. Really good read.
Was this review helpful?
Tea and books go so well together that as soon as I saw this book about tea on NetGalley I was looking forward to reading it. Charrington-Hollins has researched the history of the valuable tea plant right back to its earliest recorded origins in China over 1700 years ago. I was fascinated by these first glimpses of a drink that is an important part of my life and settled back with a cup of Russian Earl Grey to find out more!



Of course the title - A Dark History Of Tea - had already given away that this was not going to be a happy story and indeed it isn't, due in a large part to British imperial arrogance, selfishness and cruelty particularly towards both China and India. (Anyone British who's still spouting about China making reparations for Coronavirus would do well to read up on the Opium Wars!) As well as hugely influencing our foreign policy, tea was also surprisingly instrumental in determining domestic policy too, far more than I had expected for what is now seen as a fairly basic foodstuff. Tea was a main reason for tackling smuggling and its purity (or lack of) triggered our first food safety laws. If you are a keen tea drinker, the section on how it used to be adulterated by the unscrupulous will probably turn your stomach. Plus, because we're British, good old class snobbery takes it turn with tea drinking being perfectly acceptable for the lazing upper classes, but as soon as the working class can afford to partake there's all sorts of questions asked about whether this sort of thing should really be allowed.



I did find parts of A Dark History Of Tea to be too repetitive, almost as though the book had originally been intended as a series of articles rather than a single work. However, I loved the variety of information that is included. From its history to the various fashions in serving, appropriate attire for taking tea, and even a detailed resource on the interpretation of tea leaves for the fortune tellers amongst us. A Dark History Of Tea is a very interesting read.
Was this review helpful?
This was a good read about historical events and I learnt lots of facts that I did to know, this made it a very interesting read. It was not an easy book to read as the date order jumped in and out of sequence many times which I did not really like and could not see any reason for it either, I found it off putting as opposed to adding an impact. 
I am not sure that the title fits the book that well as I could to think of it as the dark side, more like the shady side. In places this was rather dry but in other places it was fascinating, the photo’s were lovely additions.
Rather than the story of tea I felt that it was very close to being the story of the East India Tea Company. 
Having said all the above I do have to add that I had not previously  known of the U.K. involvement in the Opium Trade and this book certainly gave an excellent view of that. I was surprised about the fact that coffee was the preferred drink of the British prior to Tea as I had always assumed the reverse was true. The author gives a lovely view of the life of the smugglers, the way tea had been taxed and the worst of all, the highly descriptive ways that tea was adulterated was frightening to say the least.
Was this review helpful?
The gore and the ugly side of humanity are show very descriptively in this book. I did enjoy the rich history behind such a common household item. I definitely recommend this  book if you are drawn to the more gruesome side of history.
Thank you to NetGalley for an early copy.
Was this review helpful?
This book was an interesting but dry overview of tea and its history. Given the "Dark" aspect of it, I thought it would be a little darker but in actually it was just straightforward history. I would've given 3 stars if my expectations were more properly met.
Was this review helpful?
A bit bland and tedious in areas but a comprehensive resource for those interested in the history of tea.  The accompanying graphics were a nice compliment to  the text.
Was this review helpful?