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Tea High and Low: Elixir, Exploitation and Ecology Conference, October 26 - 27

Friday, October 26, 2018 at 1:00pm to 5:00pm

October 26, 1:00-5:00, Hirsch Lecture Room, Johnson Museum

October 27, 9:00-4:00, Nevin Welcome Center, Botanic Gardens

This conference explores the cultural, religious, botanical, economic, and environmental dimensions of the global spread of Camellia sinensus, commonly known worldwide as either tea or chai.  Dried, fermented, ground, steeped, poulticed, eaten, and imbibed, this plant has had a global impact on local economies, forest ecologies, culinary traditions, religious rituals, labor migration, and transoceanic trade.  Our conversations will examine the multiple ways that tea is produced, distributed, consumed, represented and ritualized across Asia, from its ancient origins in the Himalayan hills of China and Assam to its global spread in the colonial era to its current status as both daily staple and healthy alternative. This interdisciplinary conference considers tea from a range of scientific, humanistic and social science perspectives, focusing on how tea monoculture displaces native flora and fauna, how tea rituals embodying cultural traditions and heritage, how tea plantations rely on impoverished migrant labor, and how tea companies market this ubiquitous leaf in multiple ways. Our meetings include samplings of the many forms this single plant can take, pairing teas with associated Asian sweets and snacks.

Please register here:


Sara Besky, Brown University

Arnab Dey, Binghamton University

Robert Hellyer, Wake Forest University

James-Henry Holland, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Po-yi Hung, National Taiwan University

Mythri Jegathesan, Santa Clara University

Andrew Liu, Villanova University

Philip Lutgendorf, University of Iowa

Victor Mair, University of Pennsylvania

Arnout van der Meer, Colby College


Cornell Participants:

Melanie Franks, Food Science

Virginia Lovelace, Nutrition

Masaki Matsubara, East Asia Program

An-Yi Pan, History of Art

Eric Tagliacozzo, History

Leslie Verteramo, Applied Economics

Andrew Willford, Anthropology

John Zinda, Development Sociology


Conference Organizers:

Daniel Bass, South Asia Program

Jane-Marie Law, Asian Studies





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