TBT: The Party of Tea

So on this day, 1597, the first ship of what would later become the Dutch East India Company arrived with a bulkhead leaden with spices.

Doesn't seem like a big deal now, though I'm still shocked by how much saffron costs at Trader Joes, but back then, in the time of Shakespeare, it was super good stuff.

Frank Herbert said it best in his book Dune . . . "He who controls the spice, controls the universe."

If you haven't read Dune, you should. It's basically a science fiction take on the entire Middle East, from the spice trade to WWI.

You probably have certain feelings about it based on the 80's movie. Which is fine . . . I'm not gonna judge. But read the book anyway.

What made the Dutch East India Company so special was that it ran at an annual 18% profit for more than two hundred years. Think Google for two centuries instead of a few decades. That's a lot of profit for a really long time (if you needed that for scale).

Now when we think Dutch East India Company . . . we usually think Tea.

As in the Boston Tea Party which leads to Rand Paul and not a lot in between.

Assuming we're all Americans.

We like to skip a few steps along the way.

But going back anyway, just for the hell of it, it marked one of the biggest steps leading to the Brittish  Empire. The love of tea and spices that could only be gotten from the east indies, and of course, the serendipitous annihilation of the Spanish Armada.

Queen Elizabeth was having a good century.

Shakespeare was too.

Christopher Marlowe however got stabbed in the neck during a bar fight and never lived long enough to be awed by the price of saffron.

All went splendidly (as the Brittish might say) until there seemed to be a trade deficit with good old China in the early 1700's.

Sound familiar?

A trade deficit basically means that we are buying all their stuff and they aren't buying any of ours.

Now sound familiar?

Modern America (beginning with Nixon) has begun whittling away at the trade deficit by introducing sneaky bits of capitalism into their communist economy . . . and selling them smart phones.

Sure they build the smart phones, but then we sell them back to 'em.

Sounds sinister, but not as sinister as the Brittish in the early 1700's.

See, they didn't have smart phones back then, but they did have Opium. Which . . . from what I've been told . . . is almost as addictive as Candy Crush.

Buy the Chinese tea . . . sell them the drugs made in India . . . no more trade deficit.

But that level of corruption along with the fact that those pesky colonists got cranky about being taxed without representation and decided to go all independent, sort of collapsed the Dutch East India Company who are still quite pissed about the whole Boston thing.

Way to hold a grudge.

So looking to boost profits, with North America out of the picture, comes the dashing adventurer Robert Fortune.

I kid you not.

Robert Fortune.

A botanist by trade, a scoundrel by night, Robert sneaks into the interior of China with not a single Chinese word in his vocabulary, and walks off with over 20,000 seedlings of various exotic plants . . . the most important of which: Camellia Sinensis.

The Tea Plant.

And when I say he didn't speak Chinese, I mean it. He seriously pretended to be a Chinaman from a different province and was still able to walk off with the goods.

He is definitely one of the top ten picks for my Zombie Apocalypse Fantasy Team.

So he plants the tea in India and away we go. It's not until the end of WWII that the British are kicked out of that part of the world, which opens to the door to communism from the north, Islam from the west, and a McDonalds with a vegetarian menu from good old U. S. of A.

I love being an American.

We're so awesome.

Though we're not tea drinkers, which is kind of sad. Tea is an amazing beverage full of nurture and surprise. I could easily write an essay off the top of my head about coffee (our main caffeine injector of choice), but that would lead us from Africa to Central and South America, around Cape Horn and all the way back to the Indian Ocean.

Skipping steps in that particular story won't do.

And even for a Throw Back Thursday . . . who's got that kind of time?

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