Tea and the Marginalized

There may be no greater connection between one world and another than tea.

In tea we pick the grasses and leaves of our native lands and ship them to another people who look and think differently than we do. Those people prepare the grasses and leaves in water and consume their essence. We drink the earth of each other together.

Case of Sri Lankan Teas – public domain

Tea might be one of the only things that a young woman from Atlanta, a little boy from India, an old man from China, and a family from Iran all share in common.

It connects us with literal and figurative roots. It warms and cools, energizes and relaxes. It can be cheap or extremely expensive, bitter or very sweet. It dominates many religious rituals, and in Boston once, was a part of political theater.

Just as tea connects humanity in many ways today, it did the same through one of the darkest parts of human history: a desire for sugary tea funded the African slave trade.

Throughout history, nations that had any knowledge of tea shared a consuming desire for it, leading to abuse of workers and migrants, and of the tea merchants who often traveled extremely long distances on dangerous paths to get the product into the cities.

Tea Workers in Indonesia –
Tropenmuseum of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)

Today’s tea farmers struggle with crippling debt, corrupt work environments and tremendous physical and emotional tolls. Women and children, who account for most of the picking on tea farms, are at particular risks.

This week we will be discussing tea and how it relates to the larger world in terms of forced migration issues and human rights. Come along and share your experiences as we explore this global topic.

Join in!

What is your favorite tea, and/or your favorite place to get tea?

Do you prefer it hot or iced? Sweet or unsweet? Loose or bagged?


There is, surprisingly, one tea plantation in the United States that actually grows tea, though I can’t vouch for its quality. It is in Charleston, SC, and is open to tourists.

3 Responses to “Tea and the Marginalized”
  1. Joan says:

    I like a good English breakfast tea. I prefer loose tea, but settle for bagged. I like it hot and enjoy it most when I am trying to relax and think. I put nothing in my tea — just tea for me.

    Also, I love this topic and look forward to more information. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Darrell says:

    Tea is a universal language as you have said. Whereever I have traveled, I have been offered tea, although I have been in remote villages all over the Far East and even northern Norway and I was offered coca cola in the small bottles as a sign of friendship. These social exchanges were very touching things as people who had very little offered what they had as friendship to strange men with guns. Probably many of those people had never seen an American before.

    Tea is complicated in America compared to coffee. It takes a long time like soccer but not that long. I like it as there are so many varities but I would usually choose coffee. It’s simple and someone always makes it for me.

  3. Dahlia Ture says:

    I am intrigued to read your series on tea and the marginalized. Tea is such an important part of my life and daily routine. When I think of relaxation, a good cup of tea is usually in the picture. But, as Evan & I also think more and more about conscience food choices that reflect our care for the earth and love for people, I am definitely interested in how tea can be a part of that.

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