tea and nation
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The ins & outs of tea diplomacy

This week, when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted teas to the top American CEOs, he was using a proven method of engagement that has in the past been used to evade wars, a military coup and build friendships.

In Madison Square Garden, between songs, dance, waving Indian flags, and a glittering show of India’s strength, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a striking statement. He mentioned how he had arrived here (so to say) by selling tea – a statement underscoring his humble beginnings.

The next day, when he chose to gift some fine tea selections from Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri to the top 11 CEOs of the United States, the gift was somewhere symbolic of the arrival of Narendra Modi. From a humble chaiwala to a man of refined taste for fine Indian teas.

A memorable gift is about exclusivity, thoughtfulness and being deliberate. Fine teas score on all the above fronts. More importantly, from Modi’s and many other Indians perspective, fine Indian teas represent the coming together of craftsmanship and superior choice.

And by choosing to give teas over anything else, Modi was perhaps consciously making an effort to come across as a person with an eye for panache and at the same time, keeping it Indian.

Cup-of-tea diplomacy: A proven method of engagement

When you think about it, this isnt the first time tea has been used as a tool of diplomacy.

In 1993, in South Africa, when Nelson Mandela learned of a general who was plotting an Afrikaner guerrilla war against the multiracial rule, he politely (and deliberately) invited him over for a cup of tea.

And when General Constand Viljoen arrived with his platoon at Mandelas house in Johannesburg, they were surprised to find a smiling Mandela greeting them at the door; shaking their hands and telling them how kind they were to visit him. Later, over a cup of hot tea, Mandela was able to convince the general to abandon his plans.

More recently, during the visit of Israeli dignitaries to the United States in 2010, Americas First Lady Michelle Obama invited Israels First Lady Sara Netanyahu to have tea while their husbands met.

Across Asia and many other countries, theres been a long-standing tradition of offering tea to guests. It stands as a gesture of friendship, hospitality, and camaraderie.

What makes tea so agreeable?

For many years, and throughout many historical accounts, tea has been accorded as the beverage that encourages eloquence. Theres a certain element of peace and tranquility associated with tea, its flavor and aroma. And thats why it is hard to imagine a quarrel erupting over a cup of freshly brewed tea.

There is something alluring about tea that calms your nerves. A good cup of tea engages all the senses and awakens them to new taste sensations.

And perhaps thats why they say, make tea, not war. It brings people together.

By now if you have become interested enough in the idea of gifting teas, do check out Teabox gift packs containing some of the best Indian teas chosen from over 75 different estates. Those were some lucky 11 CEOs who received Indian teas from the Prime Minister himself. For everyone else, there is Teabox. Enjoy your share.

We’d love to hear what you make of this gesture. Drop your comments and opinions below.

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