22 March 2010

A Sip of History: The Silk Road and Tea

It's almost effortless to buy tea today. It's sold practically everywhere, from supermarkets to drugstores, or- don't even get up from the computer- simple to purchase online.

But it wasn't always this easy.

Picture the Silk Road, an extensive trading route from China through central Asia to the Middle East, which was established roughly around the 1st century B.C. Caravans of horses and camels laden with goods stretched over 4,000 miles; bazaars and trading centers studded the path. Precious items and ideas flowed for millennia along the well-worn trails, but one of the most significant exchanges was that of tea.

It was another world from the flat, screen-dominated one most of us occupy, but you can get a taste of it now at the Traveling the Silk Road exhibit at American Museum of Natural History. Even better, explore tea's cultural and historic impact over cups of the same varieties that traversed this ancient route with Morris Rossabi, professor of history of City University of New York, and Sebastian Beckwith, owner of In Pursuit of Tea, at the "Silk Road and Tea" lecture and tasting, this Wednesday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m. (camels optional).

I hope to see you there. And for those of you not up to a 1,000-mile journey, I'll be posting a review and images after the event.

Tickets for Silk Road and Tea are $20 and available online; the Traveling the Silk Road exhibit runs through August 15.