COMMODITIES: Teapot Tempest

Some 4,000 years ago, according to Japanese legend, the Buddhist priest Bodhidharma tried to stay awake for seven years. In the fifth year he got sleepy and cut off his eyelids. They took root. From the leaves of the bushes that grew, he made a brew that enabled him to finish his vigil. That's how tea began.

And that was probably the most wide-awake the tea business has ever been. The British, who have dominated it since tea became their national beverage in the 18th Century, have always conducted the business in a gentlemanly, conservative manner, as unchanging as the...

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