QM History of Tea Project publications include:

  1. The Empire of Tea: the Asian Leaf that Conquered the World (London: Reaktion 2015) jointly authored book by Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton and Matthew Mauger.

The Empire of Tea revises conventional histories of tea by focusing on the eighteenth century, an era when the East India Company’s trade with China monopolized the legal supply of leaf-tea into Britain. It charts the transition of tea consumption across the period 1650-1850, from its fashionable status amongst elite court circles in London, to its emergence as a staple of everyday life at all levels throughout the nation. The book begins with the encounter between European traders and tea in China, from the earliest descriptions by travellers and missionaries, to the beginnings of the trade in this exotic commodity in the ports of Macau, Guangzhou (Canton), and Jakata (Batavia). In doing so, it examines the varied market that existed for ‘green’ and ‘black’ teas in Britain; describes the auctions held by the East India Company at its headquarters in Leadenhall Street; maps the official distribution routes of tea across Britain, from metropolitan tea-dealers to provincial grocers; and traces the illicit trade in smuggled tea that prompted attempts by successive governments to safeguard the national revenue through a complex network of gaugers and excisemen. The book explores the representation and meanings of tea-drinking as a social ritual in Britain, in particular by analysing its gendered association with domesticity, and the construction of ‘the tea-table’ as a feminine space that challenged the masculine homosociality of the coffee-house. Anxieties about the social and physiological impact of tea-consumption increasingly overlapped as the period developed, and contests over the public and personal healthfulness of the beverage are central to this project. By attending to the international contexts for the production, distribution, and consumption of tea, this book locates the growth of tea drinking in global networks of mercantile and cultural exchange. It accounts therefore for the complex history of European encounters with tea as natural curiosity and cash crop; considers the politics and practicalities of the East India Company’s protracted efforts to establish an effective trading relationship with a distant and powerful empire on the other side of the world; and assesses the role and value of the tea-trade in consolidating Britain’s own aspirations for empire, especially in provoking an increasingly fraught relationship with the North American colonies.

Chapter titles:

  • Chapter 1: Early European Encounters with Tea
  • Chapter 2: Establishing the Taste for Tea in Britain
  • Chapter 3: The Tea Trade with China
  • Chapter 4: The Elevation of Tea
  • Chapter 5: The Natural Philosophy of Tea
  • Chapter 6: The Market for Tea in Britain
  • Chapter 7: The British Way of Tea
  • Chapter 8: Smuggling and Taxation
  • Chapter 9: The Democratization of Tea Drinking
  • Chapter 10: Tea in the Politics of Empire
  • Chapter 11: The National Drink of Victorian Britain
  • Chapter 12: Twentieth-Century Tea

An Indian edition of Empire of Tea was published in 2016 by Speaking Tiger.

  1. Tea and the Tea-Table in Eighteenth-Century England, 4 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2010), edited by Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, Ben Dew and Matthew Mauger.

Volume 1: Literary Representations of Tea and the Tea-Table (Editor: Markman Ellis)

Volume 2: Tea in Natural History and Medical Writing (Editor: Richard Coulton)

Volume 3: Tea, Commerce and the East India Company (Editor: Matthew Mauger)

Volume 4: Tea and Politics: the Boston Tea Party (1773) and the Commutation Act (1784) (Editor: Ben Dew)

This four-volume, reset edited collection offers the first scholarly edition of important Anglophone texts on tea in the long eighteenth century (1660-1832). The collection takes as its starting point the earliest substantial descriptions of tea as a commodity in the mid-seventeenth century, and ends in the early nineteenth century with two key events: the discovery of tea plants in Assam, India in 1823, and the dissolution of the East India Company’s monopoly on the tea trade in 1833. The majority of the material here is rare and has not previously been the subject of scholarly study of this kind.

Complete contents and sample pages.


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