zavk wrote:Kim O'Hara wrote:But it suggests the possibility that the normal English tea I grew up with was a degenerate (simplified) masala chai in the first place. Weird!
The history of tea cultivation and how it came to be adopted as an English habit is an interesting read. Roughly speaking, tea had to be promoted as a viable return cargo for the East India Company. The mass cultivation of tea in India and Ceylon occurred in the 1800s and was a means to break China's monopoly on tea trade, to force it to enter into a different trade relation - and it is worth noting that getting its people hooked on opium (cultivated and imported from South and Central Asia) was a part of this process.
So in a manner of speaking, the drinking of tea migrated from China to South Asia to England. Compared with the long history of tea culture in China, Japan, and Korea, and the ways in which South Asians make their tea rich and strong, some might say that the English approach of having tea with a spot of milk (and biscuits) is an 'adulterated' and 'degenerate' form of tea drinking. I think that is an unhelpful, decontextualised, hubristic and inhospitable way of thinking; a way to shore up cultural capital for oneself, to establish cultural hierarchies, rather than to appreciate tea.
A parallel could be drawn with the recurring discussions we witness here about 'authentic' or 'original' vs. 'adulterated' or 'degenerate' approaches to the Buddha's teachings, I reckon.... Yet, I don't think we are going to see heated debates about who has gotten it 'wrong' about tea - and hence, in need to be told off or convinced of the 'errors' of their ways or to lose their unnecessary 'cultural baggage' - any time soon, are we?
Hello again, Ed,
I had no idea that I could come up with "an unhelpful, decontextualised, hubristic and inhospitable way of thinking" so easily!
Actually, I was (and am) no more than half serious anyway. I was certainly not proposing to disparage anyone's tea-istic beliefs (sorry ).
I do know a fair bit of the history but the real impulse behind my comment was rather different. My mother was English and was a very "English" cook all her life (partly because my father was so conservative food-wise) even though she came to Australia before I was born, so we kids grew up on "meat and three veg" main courses and steamed puddings, etc, for dessert. And the veggies were always "well cooked", which by today's taste means overcooked: greens were often greys, and so on. Don't get me wrong: she was a good cook within those limits, and we ate well and healthily - especially compared to today's fast-food kids. But moving out of home and coming to inner-city Melbourne with all its Greek and Italian and Lebanese food - and Victoria market!! - was astonishing, let's say, and wonderful.
Anyway "curries" in the English tradition were made with curry powder from a tin (and so little of it that you had to be told it was a curry). And it struck me that English tea bore the same relation to masala chai that English curries bore to Indian curries (I nearly said "real curries" there ).