Tsiology; A Discourse on Tea

Tsiology; A Discourse on Tea

If you’re reading this article, you probably noted the title and may have been wondering, as I did, what tsiology is and what it has to do with tea. Fair enough, but I can’t offer much in the way of enlightenment on that count. As far as I can tell, it’s a term that the author of Tsiology; A Discourse on Tea, a work first published in 1826, coined without bothering to define it (though I’d bet it’s something along the lines of the science or study of tea). As far as I can tell it’s a word that wasn’t used previously and hasn’t been used since.

Putting that aside, let’s move on to the book itself, which was written by an anonymous individual identified only as “A Tea Dealer.” After a preface in which the author cautions that the work is not “a literary production,” the proceedings kick off with a Botanical Account of the Tea Plant. Here the author points out – erroneously – that the plant is a native of Japan and China and goes on to summarize various historical aspects behind its botany and cultivation and notes some of the conditions under which it is grown.

Also interesting as a side note, is that the author recounts the already infamous legend of monkey-picked tea, though he’s careful to note that he’s not sure if it’s true. Chapter two also focuses on growing tea, though more specifically on climate-related issues. The next three chapters examine the competitive tea trade in England, the effects of tea on health and the practice of adulterating tea in the interests of profit. The latter practice was unfortunately not all that uncommon in earlier times and has been remarked upon by various other writers who have tackled the topic of tea.

The book wraps up with another few chapters on the tea trade, including one devoted to the East India Company. Though enormously influential in the tea trade, among other things, as the author notes, “it’s power, wealth, and immunities cease to astonish, only because they have become familiar.”

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