From the fourth century B.C. in China, where tea was used as an aid in Buddhist meditation, to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when its destruction became a rousing symbol of the American Revolution, to its present-day role as the single most consumed beverage on the planet, The Empire of Tea explores the effects of the humble Camelia plant—both tragic and liberating—in the history of civilization. Alan MacFarlane explains, among other things, how tea became the world’s most prevalent addiction, its use as an instrument of imperial control, and how the cultivation of tea led to the invention of machines and technology during the industrial revolution. The Empire of Tea also incorporates personal stories of the people whose lives have been affected by their contact with the global obsession with tea, including the elegantly detailed account of Iris MacFarlane about her life on a tea estate in the Indian province of Assam, the world’s center of tea cultivation. A fascinatingly tour of the world’s great tea cultures—Japan, China, India, France, the United Kingdom, and others—The Empire of Tea brings into sharp focus one of the forces that have shaped history.