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Tea Fortunes
Directed by Sue Clayton & Jonathan Curling
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Following their victory in the Opium War (see BLACK MARKET), the British obtained the secrets of tea cultivation and set up their own massive tea plantations, starting in Assam, India.

TEA FORTUNES documents the history of the tea industry as it moved from China, to India, to Sri Lanka, to East Africa, and then back to China. It profiles the efforts of British growers, in particular Sir Thomas Lipton, who first brought Tamil workers from Southern India to Sri Lanka as indentured laborers to work on his new plantations. Lipton and his imitators controlled every stage of the tea process, from planting to blending, from packaging to retailing.

Today India controls its exports of tea; Sri Lanka has nationalized its tea estates; Zimbabwe's state-run plantations generate some cash in rural areas. But three British companies still dominate the international tea trade, and in China, the original home of green teas, young women work for some of the lowest wages in the world producing black tea "dust" as filler for western blends to generate foreign exchange.

"Choice Pick... [Curling's and Clayton's] curiously effective amalgam of actuality and simulation reveals some unsuspected truths about the way the wonder bean has also kept commerce and politics in a state of maximum alertness ever since the first revivifying cupful of the brew was swallowed."—The Times (London)

"College courses in international economics and business would find these materials of interest, especially those dealing with problems of emerging economies."—Library Journal

"COMMODITIES delves deep into the quagmire of the World Debt Crisis, providing a powerful argument against the depoliticisation of events like 'Feed the World,' which insists on treating famine relief as an issue unrelated to the politics of inequality."—New Music Express

"Recommended for all libraries."—Choice


52 minutes / color
Copyright: 1986
Sale: $248

Study guide available

Subject areas:
Africa, Asia, Economics, Food, Globalization, South Asia

Related Links:
Series Description

Related Titles:
Black Market: A fictionalized account of the events leading to the Opium War.

Coffee is the Gold of the Future: The intertwined histories of coffee and of Colombia, one of the world's largest producers of the bean.

Free Markets for Free Men: The consequences of fluctuating prices on commodity producing nations.

Grow or Die: Multi-national corporations and their ever present need to expand their markets.

Leaving Home for Sugar: Later production of sugar in the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

White Gold: Early production of sugar in the Americas, particularly Brazil.

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Last Updated March 28, 2013
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