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Home > Information Index > Tracing the Origin of Iced Tea

Winter, 1998 Newsletter - "Tea Revives the World"
  Tea Revives the World

   From Mr. Pratt I learned that Mike Spillane of the G.S. Haly Company has a copy of this map, which had been in his father's tea business all of Mr. Spillane's life. He had told Mr. Pratt that he knew of only one other copy in existence in the U.S. but had not specified who owned that copy. It turns out that the second copy actually belonged to a Mr. Daly, formerly the tea examiner for the F.D.A. in San Francisco, where the G.S. Haly Company is located. The whereabouts of this copy are now unknown, but Mr. Spillane speculates that, upon the death of Mr. Daly, it ended up in the archives of the Smithsonian Institute along with a lifetime collection of tea memorabilia.

   Tea Revives the World spans the entire written history of tea up to about 1938. One banner reads, "Earliest credible mention of TEA A.D. 350". Representing the most recent data available at the time, a major table of statistics in the lower left section of the map provides production and consumption statistics for the year 1938. In spite of the brevity of the quotes and statistics, there is a rather complete portrayal of 16 centuries of tea.

   One of the appealing aspects of this map is its tendency to whet one's appetite for more information on the history of tea. What, in fact, was the context of the supposed first credible mention of tea? Ukers provides more complete information in his famous 2-volume work, All About Tea, which was published just five years earlier than the MacDonald Gill map. Ukers states, "The legendary origin of tea as taken from Chinese sources dates back approximately to 2737 B.C. The earliest reliable reference is contained in a Chinese dictionary dated about A.D. 350."

   Whether or not Tea Revives the World is rare or particularly valuable, it is at least an unusual tribute to tea, and one that I find more interesting every time I revisit the work. For example, just west of Portugal, one reads the teaser, "Queen Catherine going from Portugal to London to marry Charles II took TEA with her to console her future loneliness." It does prompt you to read more. Adjacent to the comment on Queen Catherine's loneliness, and just west of the Canary Islands is a drawing of a 17th century East Indiaman and the statement, "The Dutch first brought TEA to Europe in 1610."

   Those who have access to a copy of Ukers' 2-volume classic, All About Tea, may have noticed that the style of this work is very much like the print entitled Picture Tea Map of the World which graces the end papers of the Ukers volumes. The artwork for the Ukers books is unsigned, but even casual comparison of that work with the MacDonald Gill map suggests that the works were either done by the same individual or the influence was substantial. For example, Figure 7 shows a small section of the Picture Tea Map of the World. It depicts an East Indiaman and a banner reading, "The Dutch brought the first tea to Europe in 1610."

   Tea Revives the World is an Anglo-centric pictorial view of the history of tea. London is precisely in the middle of the map. Just above the British Isles, we find attributed to Dr. Samuel Johnson, "TEA amuses the evening, Solaces the midnight and Welcomes the morning." This is a slight variation from the actual words of Dr. Johnson, who admitted to being "a hardened and shameless tea drinker, who for many years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnights, and with tea welcomes the morning." The MacDonald Gill work documents the voracious thirst of Dr. Johnson with the banner note: "The famous Dr. Johnson, 1709-84, would drink 16 or more cups of tea at a sitting."

   The fact that London is in what appears to be the middle of the map is accentuated by a bold placement of the only meridian on the map, the Prime Meridian. The center of London is just 7 miles west of Greenwich, home of the British Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude). The association of the Prime Meridian with the tea trade may seem like a stretch at first mention, but the very dynamics of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that made England a world power are closely tied to the permanent location of the Prime Meridian.

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