For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History

For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History

Sarah Rose

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0143118749

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"If ever there was a book to read in the company of a nice cuppa, this is it." -The Washington Post

In the dramatic story of one of the greatest acts of corporate espionage ever committed, Sarah Rose recounts the fascinating, unlikely circumstances surrounding a turning point in economic history. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British East India Company faced the loss of its monopoly on the fantastically lucrative tea trade with China, forcing it to make the drastic decision of sending Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India. Fortune's danger-filled odyssey, magnificently recounted here, reads like adventure fiction, revealing a long-forgotten chapter of the past and the wondrous origins of a seemingly ordinary beverage.


















branches and alternating leaves: bright green ovals that were short-stalked, convex, serrated, shiny on both sides, and downy beneath, and with a corolla, or flower, of five to nine unequally sized white petals. Thea bohea, black tea, was described as looking nearly the same—only smaller and somewhat darker. On his first trip Fortune expected to find identifiable black tea plants in gardens known to produce black tea. Yet he discovered that the tea plants there looked just like the green tea

secondary consideration” next to “the distinction and status which you could not have attained any other way.” Given his social standing and lack of property, Fortune was not judged by the Society as being entitled to any of their perquisites, including such niceties as a rifle, pistols, bullets, and gunpowder. His mission was to study and expropriate the rare plants of the Orient—a task that did not, they maintained, require weaponry. It was not for the plants, Fortune argued, but for his own

picked. If the tea bush were a Christmas tree, pickers would take leaves only from the bough where the star is placed, the very tip, and perhaps from a few of the branches with ornaments on them. From each bush comes only a handful of leaves because only the two most tender leaves sprouting from the end of a branch release the gentle and mellow taste that becomes tea; the older leaves on the stem below taste harsh and sooty. A nimble tea picker can pluck up to thirty thousand tea shoots per day,

rudimentary of weapons. However, as Fortune noted, “All the pirate junks carried guns, and consequently a whole deck load of stones could be of very little use.” “Bring the junk around,” one of the crew demanded. “Run us back to the cliffs and hide among them,” another argued. “Fight!” cried one. Da! “Flee!” yelled another. Zou! The fate of a Westerner taken by pirates was often a bloody one: The brigands would possibly hold Fortune for ransom and torture him. Under duress he would be forced

though, and readily agreed to accept a packet of letters from the men—notes to wives, parents, and children. He promised to take the mail with him to Calcutta and direct it to a steamer on its way to China. He would do anything for the men, for “never, from the time of their engagement until I left them in their new mountain home, had they given me the slightest cause for anger.” Fortune left the Chinese manufacturers in India with a heavy heart. “I confess I felt sorry to leave them.” It was as

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