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Today, Americans are some of the world’s biggest consumers of black teas. In Japan, green tea, especially sencha, is preferred. These national partialities, Robert Hellyer reveals, are deeply entwined. Tracing the trans-Pacific tea trade from the eighteenth century onward, Green with Milk and Sugar shows how the interconnections between Japan and the United States have influenced the daily habits of people in both countries.
Hellyer explores the forgotten American penchant for Japanese green tea and how it shaped Japanese tastes. In the nineteenth century, Americans favored green teas, which were imported from China until Japan developed an export industry centered on the United States. The influx of Japanese imports democratized green tea: Americans of all classes, particularly Midwesterners, made it their daily beverage—which they drank hot, often with milk and sugar. In the 1920s, socioeconomic trends and racial prejudices pushed Americans toward black teas from Ceylon and India. Facing a glut, Japanese merchants aggressively marketed sencha on the home and imperial markets, transforming it into an icon of Japanese culture.
Featuring lively stories of the people involved in the tea trade—including samurai turned tea farmers and Hellyer’s own ancestors—Green with Milk and Sugar offers not only a social and commodity history of tea in the United States and Japan but also new insight into how national customs have profound if often hidden international dimensions.
About the author: Robert Hellyer is associate professor of history at Wake Forest University. He is the author of Defining Engagement: Japan and Global Contexts, 1640–1868 (2009) and coeditor of The Meiji Restoration: Japan as a Global Nation (2020).
"Beautifully researched and written, Green with Milk and Sugar demonstrates how important Japan has been to developing U.S. tastes and trade and global capitalism. Hellyer reveals a tremendous amount about consumption and trade in Japan and how Pacific influences can be found throughout the American continent. Green with Milk and Sugar will appeal to tea lovers, historians, food scholars and members of the tea trade."
—Erika Rappaport, author of A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World