Every week, we’ll bring you a bite sized digest of the tea-related news that has made headlines around the world.
Last week began with news that the world-famous Assam tea brand is under threat. Lack of workers in this area of India is bringing about mechanization and with it, lower quality harvests. This could be disastrous as the Assam’s reputation for quality means it can compete with the leaf produced in Kenya and Vietnam where costs are much lower. Indian tea exports have dropped by 12% in the last five years. BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent reported on this fascinating and worrying issue.
It seems that enjoying a simple cuppa was not always seen as the harmless activity it is today. Undoubtedly the story of the week was sparked by Durham University historians writing in the academic journal Literature and History. The lecturers unearthed pamphlets produced by reformers in England and Ireland in the 19th Century, which warned poor women who drank tea were being “reckless and uncontrollable”. Peasant women were also told they could be seen as supporters of “revolutionary feminism” if they continued to sup the simple brew. Who’d have thought an honest cup of cha could be so dangerous?
If you’ve noticed the meteoric rise of pu-erh (also pu’er) tea here in the west, some midweek news of a canny tactic by its Chinese producers might help explain why. A delegation of politicians from the Yunnan province, which exports pu-erh, to Bordeaux in France managed to strike up a shrewd deal. Effectively, they said: “If you promote our tea here in France, we’ll promote your wine back home”. So it seems the amazing spread of this wonderful potion is not happening by reputation alone.
Finally, US airline Southwest is feeling the heat after a passenger sued the company, alleging she had been scalded by a cup of tea. The woman, who filed an US$800,000 (£500,000) lawsuit on Tuesday, admits dropping the tea on her own lap – but claims she was not warned of the potential danger. This story is a salient reminder to us all: don’t pour tea all over yourself…it’s hot.