My digital artefact came about through a desire to engage in an area I enjoyed but had not fully explored. I’ve grown up drinking black tea from a young age. My Grandma would look after me while my parents were at work and we would share a cup of tea together (although mine was probably entirely milk and sugar). This tea drinking passion has only continued and has become a staple part of my day. But my knowledge of the tea industry and in particular its origins, has been very scarce. I took this opportunity to create a digital artefact that explores my research of various teas from Asia, whilst also making and tasting it for myself.
Across five episodes I tried five different teas each with their own particular history and background. Within these episodes I would try the tea and then provide some of the research I found out about them. A classmate suggested using ‘pop-up’ information bubbles to help me expand on what I was talking about without taking up to much time within the vlog. Ellis (2011) describes auto ethnography as seeking “to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience”. I tried to engage with this by combining the personal experience of consuming something for the first time as well as the interpersonal experience of describing the tea origins. Aesthetically, I aimed for the beginnings of my videos to include a neat little short of making the tea, to engage the audience, before launching into my experience.
Ellis (2011) also underlines the importance of epiphanies. There were obviously epiphanies for myself in the physical tasting of the tea, whether I enjoyed it or not. However in the larger sense, and more noticeable in the fifth and final episode, an epiphany I had was just how tea has been influenced by outside sources (namely Britain) as well as how trade and travel has been impacted by the tea industry for centuries. I also came across the term foodways which is used to explain how different ethnic groups develop shared habits of food consumption. This is incredibly evident with tea and Asia. As I mentioned in my videos, most tea making and cultivating began in China, but travelling merchants and Buddhists have spread it to Japan and down to India and to many other countries. However many of the traditions of tea remain very similar. “Tea as a product and a culture represents an early example of globalisation” states Ellis, Coulton and Mauger in their book Empire of Tea (2015).
The most profound discovery I had throughout my auto ethnographic research was just how much tea has incorporated itself into so many cultures and remains a tradition, even as the ‘ritual’ has changed with the modern day. Tea drinking and enjoyment is not a new phenomenon by any means and yet it remains as a part of most people’s every day life. Following tea’s expansion across the globe is akin to reading a history textbook, such is its heavy involvement.
My five episodes ran a little overtime as I just had so much to say. The three key episodes, are the last three (episodes 3, 4 and 5), however I have linked all five for your enjoyment. I’d also like to thank the employee at T2 in Wollongong who gave me invaluable information and samples on the tea I tried!
(Also keep an eye out for the dog I live with!!)
Reference List for Videos and Essay
Britannica 2015, ‘East India Company’, Britannica, weblog post, 16 September, viewed 14 September 2018, < https://www.britannica.com/topic/East-India-Company>.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095
Ellis M, Coulton, R & Mauger, 2015, Empire of Tea, Reaktion Books, London, UK.
Japan Guide 2015, ‘Tea Ceremony’, Japan Guide, weblog post, 20 May, viewed 14 September 2018, < https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2096.html>.
Krishna, P 2017, ‘Everything You Need to Know About Oolong Tea’, Food & Wine, weblog post, 3 March, viewed 14 September 2018, < https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/oolong-tea>.
Lama, N 2013, ‘History of Darjeeling tea’, Happy Earth, weblog post, 17 May, viewed 14 September 2018, < https://happyearthtea.com/blogs/tea-101/7904251-history-of-darjeeling-tea>.
Pal, S 2016, ‘India in a Tea Cup: The Fascinating History of India’s Best Loved Beverage, Chai’, The Better India, weblog post, 15 December, viewed 14 September 2018, < https://www.thebetterindia.com/78265/chai-tea-history-india/>.
Teavivre 2017, ‘Chinese Tea History Part IV – Oolong Tea History’, Tea Vivre, weblog post, 8 October, viewed 14 September 2018, < https://www.teavivre.com/info/oolong-tea-history.html>.
The Tea Spot 2017, ‘Tea Traditions’, The Tea Spot, weblog post, 9 November, viewed 14 September 2018, < http://theteaspot.com/tea-traditions.html>.
Yabai Writers 2014, ‘An Overview of Japanese Green Tea: History, Benefits, and More’, Yabai, weblog post, 12 February, viewed 14 September 2018, < http://yabai.com/p/1767>.