James Norwood Pratt’s Essay on Modern America Tea History

How the Swans Came to the Lake

An Eyewitness Account of America’s Tea Renaissance

By James Norwood Pratt


The United States is rapidly becoming a tea-consuming society, something we were not before now, just as the US has only become a wine-consuming society since the 1960’s. The adoption of tea as a routine part of daily American life is a social and cultural development fully as significant as acceptance of same sex rights and marijuana.

We are sure to become a happier, healthier and less quarrelsome people in consequence: the tea leaf confers both spiritual and bodily blessings. Benefits like these cannot be calculated, much less documented, but statistically speaking as of 2010 the US is now importing more tea than the UK. In fact, the only country importing more tea than the US these days is the Russian Federation, they of the samovar, and we are unlikely ever to surpass their thirst.

The producing countries China and India will also always remain the foremost tea consumers, but in terms of per capita consumption Americans have now overtaken the Japanese. In 2010, our cash registers rang up roughly 10 billion dollars in retail tea sales, which is almost as much as was spent on guns. All these figures are portents of a cultural shift. Guns are a gross fact of American life, while tea is a quiet, almost imperceptible, comfort to body and spirit to many millions many millions of times every day.

Tea is liquid sunshine, a form of energy which has very gradually become humanity’s favorite drinking habit. Its slow and irresistible triumph is due to the simple fact tea always makes us feel a bit better. It lifts up the heart, whether in company or in solitude. Who could do without it?  Here follows my testimony as an eyewitness to how tea came among us strangers to it and honoring those who brought it.

This is the prologue of a chronicle of an American Tea History. All rights reserved by World Tea Media.

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