English Breakfast Tea

English Breakfast Tea


Let's talk about English Breakfast Tea, and why I have a really complicated relationship with it (*sigh* I know, I know, what don't I have a complicated relationship with).

My understanding is that English Breakfast Tea is usually (but not always) a blend of black teas sourced from Sri Lanka, India, and countries in Africa such as Kenya and Tanzania. Historically, the production and mass commercialization of tea is almost inextricably linked to colonialism, which was/is a brutal act of land-based extraction and the exploitation of people living in the Global South.

To me, it's pretty aggravating that the entire product was planted, cultivated and harvested by communities (often global Indigenous people) under horrific and oppressive circumstances and then packaged as "English Breakfast Tea."

"But that was then, this is now, Alexandra." I can almost hear the people of the internet coming for me.
The thing is, there is still a lot of inequity caught up in the global production of tea (#neocolonialism y'all). Don't get me wrong, there have been huge strides, but there is also still far to go.

Why would we keep calling it English Breakfast Tea, knowing its origins?

My Nan says that when she went to nursing school in England, she was taught how to "make a proper cup of tea." She traveled from Trinidad for the opportunity to study. It makes me think a lot about Jamaica Kincaid's "On Seeing England for the First Time."
Now, this is not to say that all brands who carry EBT are rooted in inequity -- far from it, I think that there are so many brands doing great work on equity. It has got me thinking though about how we name and hold this complicated legacy. As we shift towards sourcing all our products direct, naming and acknowledgement gains importance. Over the next year, we hope to some pretty transformation things to change power dynamics in our tiny corner of the tea world! Hope you'll follow along.
Love, AD (@thetinyteamaker)

Big thank you to the @cutlasspodcast for having ongoing conversations with me about this and for editing this post; @_lillyjaan_ and @my.tea.daily for talking all the hard things with me!
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