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The Episodes


1. The Indian Sub Continent - Nature, Nurture and the New World Order



India is the world’s greatest producer and consumer of tea but just 200 years ago consumption of tea imported from China was the foible of only a small number of Europeans. The discovery of indigenous tea in Assam, considered to be the greatest agricultural and commercial resource in whole of the British Empire, changed everything. For the first time tea could be mass produced to meet the ever-growing demands of the international tea market; tea was set firmly on its path to become the world’s most popular

2. China – Birthplace of a Phenomenon



Aghast at having fallen asleep one day during his meditation, Saint Bodhidharma cut off his own eyelids in penance and cast them to the floor. Hitting the ground, the severed eyelids grew in to a plant which, when brewed and drunk, could banish sleep. And so, as legend has it, the first tea plant was born.
Travel with ‘Tracing Tea’ and discover the myths, state secrets
and intrigues of the Forbidden City, Opium Wars, tea ceremony
and the Black Dragon as we trace over 5000 years of tea
in China.

3. Central Asia – Princely Raiders, Peasant Traders



We’re used to loose-leaf tea and tea bags, but what about tea in bricks? Carried by horse or camel across the steppes of Central Asia from as early as the 8th century AD, brick tea was not only easy to carry but was used as an edible currency. Ground up and cooked with salt, butter fat and grain, tea makes a high-energy food stuff that is perfect for keeping people warm in cold climates.
Whether the ‘Tracing Tea’ team will be happy to trade their
traditional English cuppa for a bowl of yak butter tea, we shall
have to wait and see.

4. The Caucasus: Black Gold and Green Gold



The oil and gas wealth of the Caspian Sea has catapulted Azerbaijan to a position of enviable wealth that is slowly flowing throughout the Caucasus as the region looks to the west for trade. Long traditions in tea production and viticulture are getting a 21st century revamp as the prepare to do battle in the global markets, providing Tracing Tea with the perfect opportunity to sample the best that the area has to offer.

5. Turkey – Clash of Civilisations?



Turkey straddles two vastly different continents and for millennia the city of Constantinople has been a hub for the meeting and mixing of cultures and traders. ‘Tracing Tea’ will examine the impact that both the maritime and overland trading routes have had on the differing languages, accessories and styles of tea consumption and the manner in which the West has made tea its own.

6. Eastern Europe – The Flavours of Life



Tea has been adulterated with camomile and peppermint, rose essence and orange but also with substances as unpalatable as ash tree leaves and sheep dung. In Eastern Europe, where agriculture and reliance on the land remain integral parts of society, the varieties of tea incorporate locally available products and are also used as home remedies. The impact of the area’s relationship with Russia and Russian tea culture, both past and present, will also be examined.

7. Western Europe – Sailors and Traders



Through pioneering new ship building and maritime navigation techniques, Dutch sailors opened the door to the East. Trading
with Java, Japan and China, European merchants brought home precious silks, spices, porcelain and, for the first time, tea. Increasing desire at home for these luxury products spurred on the Tea Races in which the Dutch and British competed to complete the round trip to China in the fastest possible time.

8. Great Britain – An Empire of Tea



The East India Company had rights normally exercised by governments: to acquire territory, maintain armies and forts and to declare war. It would hold the greatest monopoly in any commodity that the world as ever known – and that commodity was tea. The invention of afternoon tea by the Duchess of Bedford quickly became an institution as English
as cricket at Lords or punting along the backs at Cambridge,
and to this day the British consume more tea per head than
any other nation in the world.