An Empire Built on Tea

From the formation of the British East India Company in 1600 until 1947, the British were in control of the Indian subcontinent. They achieved this fueled by and in search of one beverage, tea. Over four hundred million people lubricated the hard work of powering an empire with an infusion of Camellia sinensis.

Tea still plays an enormous part in everyday British life, and nowhere more so than at work. Nowadays, other beverages are catching up fast. Coffee is the frequently offered alternative but the range of hot drinks available stretches from the sublime to the ridiculous. It doesn't matter what you, the boss, or the lady who does the payroll drinks, as long as you drink something.

Leaving aside the health benefits of drinking tea (green, herbal, camomile or otherwise), or even of just drinking fluids, a cup of tea is an important psychological tool.

Chinese philosopher T'ien Yiheng said "Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world" and he makes a good point. Stuck trying to solve an intractable puzzle? Give yourself space, go and make a cup of tea. You won't stop thinking about the problem, but you will break out of the knot you've formed in your head. Stuck doing a boring, repetitive task? Reward yourself with cups of tea at appropriate intervals, motivate yourself by thinking "After another 200 rows of customer records analysed, I'll have a chai latte".

Tea is also a fine relationship builder. Need to speak to someone about a sensitive issue? Invite them to make a cup of tea and join you somewhere private. Upset someone a few desks away? Make them a "Ginger and Gunpowder Zinger" and take one over as a peace offering. Use it to establish rapport and break the ice at meetings, everyone feels better chatting over a cup of tea.

Establish a community within your company using tea. Offer to 'make the tea' occasionally and use it as an excuse to chat to others at their desk. Include everyone nearby in your rounds, leaving someone out of a tea run is akin to being stood up on prom night. Encourage everyone, including the boss, to do a tea run. It takes ten minutes and leaves everyone in the office a little happier.

A tea bag costs about a penny, less in bulk. Even adding in milk, sugar (to taste) and the cost of heating the water, a cup of tea costs less than 3p. In a company of average tea drinkers (3 cups a day), that's 45p per employee per week.

Is 45p a week worth it for a more relaxed, more motivated, more tactful, friendlier employee?