African Agency in China’s Tea Trade

Commercial Networks, Brand Creation and Intellectual Property


Every month tons of green tea travel from China to West Africa in a movement that largely thrives beyond the attention of Western observers. In this trade, Malian merchants assumed a central role. They travel to China, visit family gardens and the factories, which process and package the product. Together with their Chinese suppliers, they select the tea leaves and create their brand. On Bamako’s largest market, the Grand Marché, more than a hundred different tea brands are found, whose packages have colourfully, often eye-catching designs with brand-names such as Gazelle, Tombouctou, Arafat and Obama. This book explores the unique tea culture that celebrates with its brands the strength of desert animals, the fading glory of trading places, the excitement of social events and the accomplishments of admired politicians.

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Ute Röschenthaler, Ph.D. (1991), Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, is extracurricular professor of anthropology. She published on cultural mobility, intellectual property and trade networks, including Mobility between Africa, Asia and Latin America: Economic Networks and Cultural Interactions (ed. with Alessandro Jedlowski, 2017).
This research monograph is intended for both academic (anthropologists, scholars of cultural studies, business studies) and non-academic readers (journalists, individuals with a passion for tea and museum experts) who are interested to understand the cultural mobility of a product, in globalization, trade networks, material culture, and studies of consumerism and beverages. The book is well-suited for introductory courses in African studies, migration and globalization studies, and South-South economic and cultural exchanges. It can serve as a case study that illustrates cultural mobility, globalization and business networks.
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