Black poison or beneficial beverage? Tea consumption in colonial Australia

Griggs, Peter (2015) Black poison or beneficial beverage? Tea consumption in colonial Australia. Journal of Australian Colonial History, 17. pp. 23-44.

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At the end of the nineteenth century, Australians were the largest consumers of sugar throughout the world, devouring 45.4 kgs (100 lbs) per capita annually, or just under one kilogram (2 lbs) per week. Part of this extraordinary demand for sugar was linked to the daily consumption of tea. Indeed, by the mid-nineteenth century, colonial Australians were using between four and five kilograms of tea per capita annually, the highest consumption of tea per capita globally. This distinction lasted for another half century, until the British overtook the Australian level of tea consumption during the 1900s, although Australians remained the second highest consumers of tea per capita globally until the late 1940s. Jesica Knight has argued that this almost manic passion for tea drinking in colonial Australia was a natural consequence of 'empire and identification with British civilisation'. That analysis, however, fails to acknowledge that other factors such as the product's qualities (it was relatively non-perishable and easily transportable), its link to the temperance movement and its role within the colonial system of remuneration and reward, also contributed to tea's popularity in colonial Australia. Yet this local appetite for tea, as in Ireland and Great Britain, did not pass unnoticed and was accompanied by concerns about the desirability of consuming so much of the beverage.

Item ID: 39317
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1441-0370
Keywords: tea; tea consumption; tea drinking; afternoon tea; billy tea; convicts; rations; packet tea; Bushells; Robur; James Inglis; black tea; green tea; teapots
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2015 02:35
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 50%
14 ECONOMICS > 1402 Applied Economics > 140203 Economic History @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 60%
91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9102 Microeconomics > 910201 Consumption @ 20%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 20%
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