For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History
"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.
superintendent nodded politely and led them into a large building with peeling gray stucco walls. Beyond it lay courtyards, open work spaces, and storerooms. It was warm and dry, full of workers manufacturing the last of the season’s crop, and the woody smell of green tea hung in the air. This factory was a place of established ceremony, where tea was prepared for export through the large tea distributors in Canton and the burgeoning tea trade in Shanghai. Although the concept of tea is
unrewarded, argued for hard cash from Fortune’s funds in exchange for his room and board. Young Wang, who was by now busy arranging Fortune’s passage back to the coast, finalized arrangements that overcharged him by 2000 percent. The squeeze went on and on and on. “Such is the character of the Chinese,” Fortune observed drily. Yet Fortune had nonetheless managed to get the best of the bargain: the most valuable asset in Sung Lo. His servants and hosts might have taken a little for their trouble,
of the soil. He then added another layer of soil, about half an inch deep, over the tea seeds. Fortune had his box makers fashion crossbars for this case so that the earth would stay in place no matter what turbulence a sea swell or oxcart travel might bring. “This method will apply to all short-lived seeds,” he observed, “as well as to those of the tea plant. It is important that it should be generally known.” Fortune’s first mulberry box, planted with seeds from the Da Hong Pao, was opened in
to sell at auction when he arrived. Fortune had also acquired all the necessary equipment that would be needed in India to establish a tea trade: the ovens, woks, and wide spatulas to fire the tea with as well as the farm equipment specially developed to cultivate it. For this task he had dispatched Wang and Sing Hoo to the various mountain districts to hunt down “a large assortment of implements for the manufacture of tea.” And finally he secured a collection of the perfumed plants that Chinese
the formula for Coca-Cola. Any number of international treaties now police foreign exploitation and protect national commercial treasures. Today there is only guarded enthusiasm for the mass globalization of indigenous plant life. We know now that when species are brought to new habitats, where they may have no natural predators or competitors, they can overpopulate and decimate local ecosystems. Entire islands have been overrun as the result of the kind of botanical frontiersmanship that