The transmission and circulation of tea in nineteenth and twentieth century India was a result of colonial strategy and intervention. The relocation and re-socialization of tea, happened first through an overarching master narrative of Western imperialism with its introduction in a plantation economy in Assam and its export as a consumer commodity to Europe in 1838. As production grew, in the 1900s, the Empire recognized that Indians must also become consumers of tea in order to sustain the industry. This turned increasing numbers of Indians from producers of tea only into (also) consumers of the drink, despite strong opposition from some leading contemporary public figures. Tea was now positioned as a swadeshi product.
The narration analyses the making of a consumption culture in colonial India during processes of indigenous modernization. The part of the story that is analyzed in this paper anchors itself in 1947 and is told through the use of newspaper advertisements of tea companies and the Tea Expansion Board of India.
Over time the commodity gained a remarkable degree of autonomy – a historical process that shapes the globalised world even now as commodities like tea (and their socio-cultural practices) create an altered notion of the local and the global.