Douwe Osinga's Blog: On the dangers of drinking tea

Monday, November 29, 2004

So I'm back from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it used to be called has a certain claim to fame when it comes to tea. The grow a lot of tea and are proud of it. Not that it is that great economically speaking, the average tea picker makes slightly more than a euro a day, which in Zurich would allow her to buy a hot chocalate with cream every week. However, it didn't always be this way. Sri Lanka used to grow coffee instead. If they had stuck to that, a war probably could have been avoided. Tea drinkers everywehere, pay attention.

Originally coffee was grown on the hills of Sri Lanka. They are steep, sunny and high, perfect for growing coffee (and cocaine or tea). However some weird virus arrived at wiped out the coffee plant. So they switched to tea. Doom was sure to follow.

The English, who by that time ran the island, had great trouble getting the Sinhalese (the majority of the Sri Lankians) to work for them on the coffee estates, so they imported workers from the South of India, mostly Tamils. Coffee is picked by man, it being a manly drink. Tea is picked by women (Real Men don't eat quiche, program pascal or pick tea). Also, men hunt, women nest. So during the coffee period of Sri Lanka, migrant workers would come in from India, work for the season and return with the money to their families in India.

After the switch to tea, whole families moved to Sri Lanka from India. The woman would work on the fields and at the end of the day return home to cook for their men (who I'm sure were being usefull by making plans all day they'd never execute while drinking tea). The rest is history. Sri Lanka got a Tamil population that didn't like the Sinhalisation in the seventies and revolted. The Tamil Tigers fought a long a bloody war argainst the central government and the development of the island was thrown back decades.