a book about tea: corporate espionage & theft in the 19th century


for all the tea in china: how england stole the world’s favorite drink & changed history (2010) by sarah rose chronicles the theft in the mid-1800 of the tea plant,  horticultural knowledge, tea-making processes & technology in order to build the tea industry in india / this enabled britain to be in a highly competitive spot with china in the production of the world’s second most consumed beverage

the spy-thief in this story is scotsman robert fortune  / london’s daily express, in its book review, called him “the indiana jones of tea” \ indeed, fortune disguised himself as a local mandarin / he shaved the front of his head like any other ethnic chinese <an act of fealty to the emperor>, wore a tail & got rid of his western clothes \ he also spoke some pidgin chinese and outsmarted pirates!

despite his lack of a gentleman’s background, fortune was the royal horticulture society’s first choice for the mission to china / he is considered to be one of the world’s greatest plant hunters, introducing over 120 plant species to the western world \ many plants are named after him < … fortunei > and his enduring legacy are the many ornamental plants gracing our gardens < bleeding heart, clematis, rhododendron, chrysanthemum, etc >

fortune used many ways of transporting the stolen tea from china to the darjeeling region of india / among them was the use of wardian cases, the forerunner of the modern terrarium & inspiration for the glass aquarium <invented by nathaniel bagshaw ward, an interesting story itself> \ aside from the plant, fortune also brought with him five chinese tea cultivators so that the transfer of technology was complete

this is another interesting good read!

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