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Call No.: Mss:126 1885 T253
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: Tea Industry Photograph Collection
Quantity: 2 linear feet (2 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: This collections consists of a photograph album containing albumen prints and loose albumen prints that depict Chinese tea manufacturing processes, ca. 1885.
The cultivation and production of tea began in prehistoric China, and over the millennia it spread to Japan, India, Africa, and South America. By the late nineteenth century, Chinese tea manufacturing processes were highly evolved and its product was popular throughout the world. Chinese tea farms were small and local, unlike the large European-owned plantations common in India and Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka). Chinese peasants grew and picked tea near their own villages, then sold it to local tea making firms for processing. The tea makers subjected the leaves to a variety of processing steps, depending of the type of tea being made. These production steps included withering, rolling, fermentation or oxidation, and drying. The three categories of tea resulting from this process are black tea (fully fermented), oolong (semi-fermented), and green tea (unfermented). Specially trained Western "expectorators" or tea tasters employed by the foreign tea-export firms that purchased the product then graded the tea according to its quality. The handcrafted tea was tightly packed in wooden chests and shipped to Europe, America, and the rest of the world.
The collection is arranged in the following series:
- Series I. Loose photographs, ca. 1885
- Series II. Photograph album, ca. 1885
- Series III. Large format photographs, ca. 1885
A collection of photographs that depict tea manufacturing in China and Japan during the 1880s. The collection consists of a photograph album containing thirty-nine albumen prints, as well as twenty-four loose albumen prints (some hand-colored). The photographs depict the entire tea manufacturing process: growing and harvesting; rolling, fermenting, and drying; tasting and packing. Most of the photographs were taken in China, but a few portray scenes of tea cultivation in Japan. The word "Japan" is stamped on the original album cover, but the photographs in the album appear to be Chinese. A few of the photographs in the album have brief captions. The Japanese photographs were likely produced commercially, and have some identifying information printed on the photographs. The photographs originally belonged to Nash & Hopkins, a Boston, Massachusetts, tea import firm that employed agents in China, Japan, India, and Ceylon.