Saturday, February 26, 2005


regional coffee culture, part xxxiv, or strange colonial nostalgia

"drunk by the fastidious, [tea] still carries memories of a glorious raj legacy. . ."

wow. rare is it to hear one from the subcontinent argue in favor of the colonialist oppression of the raj!

but here it is, a polite anti-americanism dressed up as an ode to tea. i never thought of tea or coffee in this way, as political foils for east vs. west.

i guess that's because i know -- and have so often written here about -- how quickly the so-called "east" is embracing the specialty coffee lifestyle.

i was majorly (grey?) suprised to see the swipe at coffee as "euro-american," "cowboy," (everybody knows where i stand -- hey i live in indigo blue new york!), "everyman's drink," but really! in the choice between the class-decadent fastidious and the democratic everyman, i'm voting everyman. . .sorry.

but notice also how the author also makes tea feminine, while presenting coffee as masculine.

in this, i might argue, she is being what e. said called "orientalist:" that is she assumes an unspoken, seemingly obvious "east" in contradistinction to the "euro-american" west, gives it qualities (tea-drinking), and then identifies these qualities as feminine ("graceful," "blue veined alabaster" [meaning i think hands] set off by a tiny . . .pearl ring," "lace-covered") thus justifying oppression and a sexualized view of these countries as harems for the great powers.

all the while extolling the raj. as if the author somehow forgot who expanded the production of coffee on the subcontinent to begin with?

or that the as-english-as-it-gets institution lloyd's of london began as a coffeehouse?

or for that matter that english coffee consumption itself is currently skyrocketing?

another interesting trope she employs is the english-tea-as-civilized-culture while "euro-american" coffee must in contrast be a form of barbarism where people "favor an out of doors lifestyle" as nomads or something.

as perhaps a muslim herself, the writer forgets coffee's storied sufi past. . . and the fact that in history, coffee was once a marker of islam -- christians drank wine in their religious ceremonies; devout muslims abjured alcohol for coffee.

alas, ms. shahzad is building castles of soap bubbles in a false and imaginary past. i would expect better from a dean of the liberal arts!

but enough: politics is boring, while coffee isn't. politics divides, while coffee unites.

and speaking of unity, i want to thank whole latte love for donating a gaggia espresso machine and a grinder for the upcoming nyc coffee meetup!

posted by fortune | 1:29 PM | top | link to this | email this: | links to this post | | 0 comments

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