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

by Sarah Rose


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"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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143118749
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/22/2011
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 96,305
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sarah Rose is a journalist and author of the critically acclaimed For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History. As a journalist, Rose has covered a broad range of beats, including international politics and economics during the Hong Kong handover, finance and business during the end of the dot-com bubble, and the environment. She now writes about food and travel for the Wall Street JournalMen’s Journal, and Bon Appetit, among others.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Min River, China, 1845 6

2 East India House, City of London, January 12, 1848 22

3 Chelsea Physic Garden, May 7, 1848 35

4 Shanghai to Hangzhou, September 1848 54

5 Zhejiang Province near Hangzhou, October 1848 67

6 A Green Tea Factory, Yangtze River, October 1848 83

7 House of Wang, Anhui Province, November 1848 93

8 Shanghai at the Lunar New Year, January 1849 107

9 Calcutta Botanic Garden, March 1849 115

10 Saharanpur, North-West Provinces, June 1849 125

11 Ningbo to Bohea, the Great Tea Road, May and June 1849 136

12 Bohea, July 1849 152

13 Pucheng, September 1849 171

14 Shanghai, Autumn 1849 182

15 Shanghai, February 1851 190

16 Himalayan Mountains, May 1851 206

17 Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield Lock, 1852 217

18 Tea for the Victorians 227

19 Fortune's Story 238

Acknowledgments 246

Notes 249

Index 253

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A wonderful combination of scholarship and storytelling"
-Guy Raz, NPR host All Things Considered.

"With her probing inquiry and engaging prose, Sarah Rose paints a fresh and vivid account of life in rural 19th-century China and Fortune's fateful journey into it...if ever there was a book to read in the company of a nice cuppa, this is it."
-Washington Post

"The plot for Sarah Rose's For All the Tea in China seems tailor-made for a Hollywood thriller...a story that should appeal to readers who want to be transported on a historic journey laced with suspense, science and adventure."
-Associated Press

"An enthusiastic tale of how the humble leaf became a global addiction."
-The Financial Times

"A delicious brew of information on the history of tea cultivation and consumption in the Western world...a remarkably riveting tale."
-Booklist, (starred review)

"In For All the Tea in China, the most eventful era of the tea plant gets the inspired treatment it deserves."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Sarah Rose steeps us in the story of Robert Fortune."
-National Geographic Traveler

"Pause to reflect that the tea you are enjoying is totally hot - as in, stolen! Nabbed! Ripped off! Nothing more than the subject of international corporate espionage!"
-Chicago Sun Times

"In this lively account of the adventures (and misadventures) that lay behind Robert Fortune's bold acquisition of Chinese tea seedlings for transplanting in British India, Sarah Rose demonstrates in engaging detail how botany and empire- building went hand in hand."
-Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China

"As a lover of tea and a student of history, I loved this book. Sarah Rose conjures up the time and tales as British Legacy Teas are created before our eyes. We drink the delicious results of Robert Fortune's adventures every day."
-Michael Harney, author of The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea

"For All The Tea In China is a rousing Victorian adventure story chronicling the exploits of botanical thief Robert Fortune, who nearly single- handedly made the British tea industry possible in India. Sarah Rose has captured the thrill of discovery, the dramatic vistas in the Wuyi Mountains, and the near-disasters involved in Fortune's exploits. For tea-lovers, history buffs, or anyone who enjoys a ripping good read."
-Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World.

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For All the Tea in China 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
CineastesBookshelf More than 1 year ago
As a self-proclaimed theic (one who is addicted to tea), I am thrilled someone, in modern times, has tackled this vast, interwoven tale of a name that changed so much but it little remembered. Tea is like wine. Growing seasons, climates, picking times, drying, storing and shipping all affect the taste. And there are plenty who prefer a potent earl grey to a warm green tea. And it was plant-hunter and spy Robert Fortune who discovered (for the Western world) that these two very different teas grew from the same plant. Author Sarah Rose delves into the seductive past and retrieves the best, most aromatic leaves for our enjoyment. The fortuitously-named Robert Fortune took on a great adventure in the name of tea and Queen. The East India Company was losing money, so they decided to steal the secrets of Chinese tea and transplant them to India, where they still had power. They tapped Fortune to be their spy. This debut book by Sarah Rose, follows Fortune on his journey. With stories gleaned from Fortune's meticulous diaries and journals, Rose maintains an even keel between historical background and plant-hunting espionage. Her descriptions of inland China, with terraced hillsides, fresh peaches, and blooming forsythia are intoxicating. Wandering along the river, filling glass Wardian cases with exotic plants sounds divine. This idyllic setting is counterbalanced by the danger of impersonating a Mandarin Chinese and avoiding suspicion. Indeed, there are many intricate details of Chinese society that this tale of tea serves to enlighten. While Fortune was a hero to the West, he was clearly an enemy to China and the East. Through Rose's telling of Fortune's exploits, we see the emotional complications of respect for and exploitation of another culture. It is clear that not only Fortune himself benefiting from his travels, but the economy of the strongest Empire in the world. I spent a summer as a gardener at the Canterbury Shaker Village and one of my jobs was to harvest and dry the mint for their four mint tea. It was a quiet, peaceful job, if not an easy one, but it is still the best job I've ever had. Particularly in an age when we are once again learning to respect the value of a growing our own gardens, in some small way, I'd like to think I was following in Robert Fortune's steps. The gardening part; not the traveling and spying part.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author delivers a frank visit to England, China, and India in the 19th century that enables the reader to vividly learn about tea and its cultural impact.
BillR More than 1 year ago
This topic is the kind of thing you usually find in the remainders pile. Not this book. It is a page turner. Well researched and well written. A good read.
ForeignCircus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This could have been a fascinating book about one of the most economically impactful thefts of intellectual property in history, but unfortunately. it was a little too light on details and data to be completely successful. Though I enjoyed reading this book, it left me wanting more- more information, more details, more history. As the book itself was fairly short, it could have included more of that missing information to make for a more satisfying read. I expected the details of Fortune's actual adventures in China to dominate the book, and was disappointed that they didn't make up a larger portion of the narrative.
lukespapa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Combine Wicked Plants, Salt, and Simon Winchester-like writing, and you will come up with a book like For All the Tea in China. This is a entertaining, if quick, read of botanical espionage and tells both how tea became a staple of England social customs and how it fueled the colonializing British Empire. By stealing plants and seeds from China and transplanting tea to India, the British shifted the balance of trade, furthered scientific methods along the way, and ultimately altered geopolitical landscapes and economies. It is also a story of the pluck and courage of explorers such as Robert Fortune who disguised himself as a mandarin and was one of the first Europeans to travel in and out of China's interior. Though there are occasional gaps in weaving the narrative, if you are like me and don't have the time or inclination to read more in-depth titles on the subject, then you won't be disappointed.
havetea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is a fancinating historical work about how the East India Company flexes their muscle with China and commissions Robert Fortune (a botanist of poor social standing amongst the Brittish Social Elite) to smuggle precious tea plants out of the interior of China where no occidental has been before. The goal to control the largest commodity in British History. He endures great risk and many obstacles but in the end obviously successful. Good flow and pace to the story.
Chatterbox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh, how I wanted to love this book. I'm a sucker for books of this kind, that shed light on little known historical episodes or trends, whether it's Mark Kurlansky writing about cod, Dava Sobel about the quest to solve the problem of longitude, or last year's fabulous book about the production of the first map to name America (The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name by Toby Lester). What all those books have in common is effortless writing that makes the in-depth research the authors did almost vanish (just as when you watch Olympic figure skating, you forget that it's athletic), the ability to immerse me in another world, and a broader context. Despite starting out with a fascinating story -- a disguised Scotsman trying to walk off with large quantities of China's prized tea plants and tea-making technologies, so that England wouldn't have to rely on the erratic supply from China but could develop their own tea plantations in India -- Rose doesn't really deliver on several fronts. Most importantly, I was left puzzling over what appeared to be big gaps between the jacket description, which promised a tale of adventure as Robert Fortune, disguised in Mandarin robes, roamed the Chinese mountains in search of the tea plants, and the reality of the book. For one thing, Fortune's Chinese expeditions make up perhaps only a third of what is already a rather slender book (my advance copy clocks in at 250 pages or so.) And there are big gaps here. Fortune disguised himself as a Mandarin, yet he didn't speak fluent Chinese of any kind. Did no officials suspect him? Was there a tacit conspiracy to just wink at his endeavors? Had other plant-hunters in China run afoul of officialdom? With most books of this kind that I read I am delighted at new discoveries; this time, I found myself jotting down a list of questions about things like this which piqued my curiosity but which were left unanswered. In all, Fortune seems to have had a relatively straightforward time of things, given the difficulties of traveling in an unknown country with no transportation infrastructure. That being the case, I was glad to have the additional material in this book, which roams from the new tea plantation in the Indian Himalayas to Calcutta; from discussion of new shipping technologies for fragile plant life to details on how to brew a proper cup of tea. But the jumps back and forth in detail -- this book covers everything from the concept of plant exchanges as part of British colonial trade to the Indian Mutiny -- and felt overly choppy. Meanwhile, details of life in the China through which Fortune was passing remain skimpy. Did he see or know of foreigners who had transgressed the emperor's rules about where they could live? Did he worry about this? Did he encounter any Taiping rebels; what did he think about a Hakka would-be scholar calling himself the second son of God and Jesus's younger brother? Did he try to get to some of the premier tea gardens around Hangzhou when his annoying servants directed his sedan chair through the city instead of around it? I'm going to have to turn to Fortune's own chronicles to find out. It's a mildly interesting survey of what was probably a fascinating experience. It will probably be somewhat interesting to the casual reader, but there are other (and better) books about botanic adventuring out there, among them Flower Hunters by Mary Gribbin; Jennifer Potter's Strange Blooms: The Curious Lives and Adventures of the John Tradescants or The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andreas Wulf. If you're interested in the general issue of adventurous plant hunters or botany, try these (or Anna Pavord's new book, Searching for Order: The History of the Alchemists, Herbalists and Philosophers Who Unlocked the Secrets of the Plant World. (She wrote a very popular book about the tulip and tulip mania a while back.) This b
artikaur on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a well-written, engaging piece of non-fiction. The author manages to convey the story of how the trade secrets of the tea industry were stolen from China and brought to India in a way that did not seem like a stuffy, boring history lecture. Although I generally prefer fiction to non-fiction, this was an interesting, well-researched read.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book tracing the origins of tea since the 1800s. The journey of green and black tea from the mountains of China to the slopes of the Himalayas to the common teapots in England is outlined in detail, thanks to the memoir and copious notes taken by Robert Fortune, the man responsible for not only bringing high quality teas to England but also for bringing back many flowering plants and hedgerows that are now found in many an English garden.For such a slim volume, this book packs a great deal of fascinating information. There's the journeys of Robert Fortune itself and his adventures among the Chinese during the mid 1800s, how he disguised himself as a mandarin to avoid hostilities, his brush with pirates in the high seas, and his experiments which improved the success rate in transporting delicate plants and seeds from China to India and back to England. In addition to this, bearing in mind the focus of this book being tea, we are also treated to an insight into the secrets of tea growing and harvesting, which had remained closely guarded secrets by the Chinese, until they were uncovered by Robert Fortune and smuggled out of China. We're even given tips to the proper way to brew a good pot of tea.Lest you think this is nothing but a horticultural lesson, Ms Rose, includes relevant historical notes on the Taiping Revolution, the Opium Wars, the beginnings of the Indian movement towards independence, Britain's economic and industrial growth and the smuggling of Chinese coolies out of China to other parts of the world. She explains not only what these events are, but what caused them and why they were important events. Robert Fortune's notes on the Chinese secrets of tea-growing and harvesting, in addition to his hiring and transporting Chinese tea experts to India, can be considered industrial espionage, for surely if he had been discovered by the Chinese government, he would have been arrested and possibly executed. Fascinating read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Matthew51417 More than 1 year ago
Sarah Rose’s book is truly adventurous and interesting to me because it made me realize that some things that seem so simple to handle, can be so difficult. Readers that like somewhat crucial and yet real, well, I am assuming that most of the book is what really happened in the eighteen hundreds. I liked the book; because it was informative and I learned more about tea thyan I thought I would have to. I liked the part when Robert Fortune was offering the Wang family if he could basically help them fix up their home while he was staying there. I think that the reading level would be at a high school and possibly college ages. But arguing with a website that I found, I read that they put minimum and maximum ages to read the book was seventeen to eighteen years of age. And the grade levels being in junior year to college freshmen. I am only a high school freshmen, I guess I can say that this book was one I liked even though some places were harder for me to understand. And the book came alive in my mind, and I could feel like I was traveling to amazing places that someday I would love to go visit today. Sarah Rose made this only a few years ago in 2010 in the United States, and a year earlier in England, and she was born in 1977, so she was thirty three years of age, and just a bit out of college maybe. So that can prove that her book was sort of meant for older people, but I think I challenged myself learning about China and England. The things that stood out from this was how much detail she put into writing her book, and the creativity of what those regions would have been like in the cultures, and including the important people that took part in the storyline. I would surely recommend this book to fellow readers that may have a caffeine and tea addiction, or college kids that love history. For example I might recommend this book to my sister-in-law and one of my dear friends, they both like reading almost anything in their spare time, and possibly to read drink some tea and biscuits. That last part was just a little British like humor! I highly think that this is a really good book for another high schooler that is seeking for a book to read for another report or just for fun. Here is a piece of advice for people of my age that absolutely hate reading, do not judge a book by its cover and take in a few words into your head and then immediately stop reading any book. In the long run, you can end up not knowing how the rest of the story is like, and what you will do with the book in the future. And also that even I get a quick look at a book someone recommends to me, and I begin to hate it. But actually I do love reading, so I would not be so hard on reading “For All the Tea in China”.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ZEST4BOOKS More than 1 year ago
A wonderful history of tea and how it is now grown in other parts of the world is interesting enough but the the history of the journey outside the original soil in which it was grown and how this was accomplished is written in such a fascinating way as to keep the pages turning. The descriptions of Robert Fortune on these adventures and the process of how they invented ways to transport the tea and other plants is extremely interesting..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Youll never look at tea the same way again!
Andrew-j-Ferrell More than 1 year ago
never knew so much about the history of one large commodity... Tea
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