For All the Tea in China


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The dramatic story of one of the greatest acts of corporate espionage in history.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British East India Company had held a monopoly on the fantastically lucrative tea trade with China for two centuries. But the British Crown had just rescinded the monopoly, and China was threatening to grow its own opium, the crop the company had long used to finance its tea purchases. If the company was to stay in the tea business -- if it was to survive at all -- it realized it would need to grow its own tea on territory it controlled in the Indian Himalayas.

But how? While the company possessed ideal land for tea cultivation in the cool and misty foothills of the Himalayas, it lacked two crucial components to make the plan feasible: the tea plants themselves, and the know-how to transform freshly plucked tea leaves into a salable, desirable grade of tea. The Chinese had fiercely guarded both secrets deep within the country's mountainous inland tea-growing regions, long closed to foreigners. The only way to obtain them, it became clear, was to steal them. So in 1848 the company dispatched Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, on an extraordinary quest.

For All the Tea in China is the remarkable account of Fortune's journeys into China, an exploit that would ultimately reshape the global economy. Disguised in a mandarin's robes and a traditional pigtail, Fortune confronted pirates, a hostile climate, suspicious locals, and his own trustworthy men as he made his way to the unearthly beautiful landscapes that were the nurseries of the world's finest teas. Having located his quarry, he then faced the even more daunting challenge of safely smuggling and transporting the plants, tea workers, and necessary tools thousands of miles by sea to their new Indian home.

Sarah Rose's thrilling narrative weaves together the larger historical, geographical, and scientific stories of this unique adventure to illuminate one of the little-known turning points in economic history, and one of the greatest corporate thefts of all time.


 Condition: Pre-loved book. Minor yellowing of pages. Otherwise in good condition.

Format: Paperback
Year published: 2010

Pages: 249
History; non-fiction
Imprint: Viking

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