Japanese Green Tea in America ... in the late 19th century!


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Japanese Green Tea in America ... in the late 19th century!

Postby chamekke » Aug 18th, '08, 02:29

Japanese Green Tea: An American Beverage in the Late Nineteenth Century was the unlikely title of a talk given by Robert I. Hellyer, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University and visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo, to the Asiatic Society of Japan (April 17, 2000).

Serendipity ... I stumbled across a summary of his talk while Googling for something else. Since I had no idea that Americans had even tasted green tea prior to the late twentieth century, it was a revelation!

Here are the most intriguing bits:

Someone, in summarizing the talk, wrote:In 1882, 46.5 m. lbs. of tea were produced in Japan, of which 36 m. were exported. If we estimate that about 4 m. lbs. were lost in the refiring, this leaves only 6.5 m. lbs. for approximately 346 m. Japanese. This raises the interesting question, what were the Japanese drinking at the time?

The next question was, why Americans should have drunk green tea. Coffee was the American drink par excellence, but still green tea was drunk in the Midwest, on the West Coast and in the New York area, especially with the evening meal. Clearly, green tea was regarded as an exotic drink, and this characteristic was emphasized by the Japanese labels on the packets.

In those days coffee was made by boiling the grounds in water for about ten minutes; then eggs and fish were often added to make the grounds settle. Presumably the same method was adopted for making green tea. Mr. Hellyer had experimented with this, and the resulting brew was unbearably bitter; this must account for the fact that Americans added milk and sugar to their green tea, a practice that amounts to sacrilege in Japan ("How revolting!" was the response he got from Japanese). After the 19th century, the consumption of green tea in the U.S. declined (...)

In conclusion, Mr. Hellyer surmised that the popularity of green tea in America had been due to the influence of its cultural identification with Japan. When the export market eventually declined, the production was absorbed by the Japanese domestic market. This raises an interesting question: did the American taste for green tea lead to its becoming a prevalent daily beverage in Japan?


:shock: :shock: :shock:
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Postby Salsero » Aug 18th, '08, 02:35

I also read somewhere that Chinese greens were rather popular in the US, esp in the midwest, well into the 1920s. A friend of my brother's had an ancient aunt in Minnesota whose regular drink was Long Jing, even in the 1960s. God knows where she got the stuff!
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Postby Jack_teachat » Aug 18th, '08, 10:43

'Green Tea' was a popular beverage in eighteenth-century England, so bearing in mind the connection between the two countries in that period, I would have assumed that some of it would have made it's way over to America even earlier than the Nineteenth Century, although I can't be certain.
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Postby Mary R » Aug 18th, '08, 11:13

I dunno. I wouldn't think there would be much US green tea consumption earlier than the 19th century. I think I read somewhere that the Dutch began importing it to their New Amsterdam (New York) colony in the 1600s, but by the time the Dutch were crowded out by the British and the East India company, I think 1700s America was predominantly a black tea drinking place. The American colonies were pretty much entirely dependent upon what Britain chose to send them, and it was in the mother country's best financial interest to make one colony purchase the goods of another. Even if green tea was fashionable in Britain before 1800, the colonies tended to have a severe lag behind the mother country, and that lag could be between 5 and 30 years depending on the fashion in question.

My suspicion is that green tea consumption rose after the California gold rush when Western rail road construction kicked into high gear. That sort of started the Chinese immigration and direct trade with Asia. That would be after 1850, which would put us into the late 19th century.

Disclaimer: I ain't no history/historical economics major. GRAIN OF SALT, peeps. This would be awfully fun to research for a Between the Leaves article, though.
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Postby Salsero » Aug 18th, '08, 11:32

Do you have a sense of dates when black tea supplanted green tea in England and when Indian tea replaced Chinese tea?

Maybe when you finish your MA there, you could get a grant to do a PhD in the US on our tea history. :lol:
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Re: Japanese Green Tea in America ... in the late 19th centu

Postby auggy » Aug 18th, '08, 11:33

chamekke wrote:
Someone, in summarizing the talk, wrote:In those days coffee was made by boiling the grounds in water for about ten minutes; then eggs and fish were often added to make the grounds settle. Presumably the same method was adopted for making green tea. Mr. Hellyer had experimented with this, and the resulting brew was unbearably bitter; this must account for the fact that Americans added milk and sugar to their green tea, a practice that amounts to sacrilege in Japan

:shock:
That...
I...
There are just no words.
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Postby Mary R » Aug 18th, '08, 11:36

Hrm...I hear IU has a good program for the Anthropology of Food...maybe I could tie it into my research on 1830s drug use...
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Re: Japanese Green Tea in America ... in the late 19th centu

Postby Salsero » Aug 18th, '08, 11:37

auggy wrote:That...
I...
There are just no words.


Depends on what you're comparing it to. After having Swede's Hot Dog Water Puerh the other night, that fish and eggs doesn't sound half bad.
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Postby hop_goblin » Aug 18th, '08, 11:52

I was alway under the impression that the popularity of tea drinking in the U.S. had declined due to the enormous tax that was imposed on tea. As a consequence, the U.S. had become coffee drinkers instead. Very intersting to see another point of view. Thank you!
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Postby Jack_teachat » Aug 18th, '08, 12:36

Salsero wrote:Do you have a sense of dates when black tea supplanted green tea in England and when Indian tea replaced Chinese tea?

Maybe when you finish your MA there, you could get a grant to do a PhD in the US on our tea history. :lol:


If you can get me a scholarship I'll be there like a shot! :lol:

I believe that more black/bohea/pekoe tea was always consumed in England during the eighteenth century. The market shift from Chinese to Indian and Ceylon tea was probably the most remarkable transition in the nineteenth century.

Tea was first discovered in Assam at the end of the 1830s and the English soon developed a taste for the stronger Indian blends. By the 1860s Indian tea was starting to make serious inroads into the British market. Newly planted Ceylon tea also achieved remarkable popularity between 1870-1890 with it's share of the UK market rasing from 1 per cent in 1884 to 25 per cent in 1891!

Tea consumption in Britain in 1891 was as follows...

Indian 49 per cent
Ceylon 25-26 per cent
Chinese 25 per cent

Jack :)
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Postby doyoulovedee » Aug 18th, '08, 13:04

dee's take on US tea consumption...

1600's settlers bring over tea - loves it
1773 british tax tea, settlers go anti tea
late 19th century, tea makes a come back.
- and possibly with the egg/fish green tea, it kind of dies off again
20th century hits, everyone wants to be healthier. BAM! tea is in again.

i think i'm going to do some research on this.
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Postby Salsero » Aug 18th, '08, 13:14

Jack_teachat wrote: Tea was first discovered in Assam at the end of the 1830s ~snip~ to 25 per cent in 1891!
Great info. Have you seen James Norwood Pratt's New Tea Lover's Treasury: The Classic True Story of Tea ? He also writes for Upton Tea and for T Ching.

Seems to me I remember him saying in the book that the assamica varietal was discovered by a John Company employee and promptly ignored for something like ten or twenty years.
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Postby Mary R » Aug 18th, '08, 13:43

It's been ages since I've read Pratt's work...did he address the similarities between the labor structure on the colonial tea plantations and US slavery?
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Postby Salsero » Aug 18th, '08, 14:29

Mary R wrote: ...did he address the similarities between the labor structure
Gawh! Great subject! ...but no, he didn't.
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Postby Mary R » Aug 18th, '08, 14:40

Shame. That and the politics of the Opium Wars are the two most interesting (and salient) bits about modern tea history.
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