It wasn't so long ago that tea was such an obsession for the world that it actually led to history-making wars.

There was the Boston Tea Party - a massive protest by American colonists against the British government's 1773 Tea Act. The Act imposed a high tax on teas sent from Britain to what were then known as the American colonies, and people were outraged. Protesters boarded trade ships at the Boston Harbor and tossed hundreds of chests of tea into the ocean.

That was a lot of money's worth of tea at the time, and the British Parliament reacted by passing even more punitive laws. The American colonists responded with even more protests, leading ultimately to the American Revolution in 1775. And we all know how that ended. It's therefore no exaggeration to say that tea was partly responsible for the birth of the United States of America!

The demand for tea in Britain also led to the Opium Wars in China, which are regarded as the starting point of modern Chinese history. In the 18th century, the British loved their Chinese teas, silks and porcelain. The Chinese, on the other hand, wanted nothing but silver from the British - - and a trade deficit for the British ensued.

Looking to counter the imbalance, the British East India Company found the ultimate solution: smuggling opium into China. The highly addictive drug ensured an ever-growing demand in the country - bought with silver by the Chinese. Seeing that the illicit narcotics were starting to cripple a large percentage of the population, Chinese viceroy Lin Zexu was given the task of halting the opium trade in 1839. After a failed appeal to Queen Victoria, Lin resorted to confiscating tens of thousands of chests full of opium in Canton (modern-day Guangzhou), the only trading hub available to foreigners at the time.

The British consequently took action and dispatched a small naval army to go on the offensive in Canton - kickstarting the first of two Opium Wars. It was an easy victory for Britain, forcing China to sign the Treaty of Nanking which consequently opened five Chinese ports to the world and ceded parts of the territory of Hong Kong to the British Empire.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, but it remains a Special Administrative Region with its own set of laws until 2047. Hong Kong's unique culture, drastically different from mainland China's, is in no small part due to its unique history as a British colony. And we have tea to thank for that.

Source: Tea is for Everyone: Making Chinese Tea Accessible (ISBN 9887756016)