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For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History MP3 CD – Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged


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  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Unabridged edition (1 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400165377
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400165377
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 18.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,132,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle of this fascinating volume is "How England Stole The World's Favorite Drink and Changed History." One may assume that is the author's choice. This reader's choice would be something along the lines of "How Robert Fortune copped a cuppa from the Chinese." Seriously, noted Scottish botanist gardener and plant explorer Fortune is at the heart of this story, and what a tale it is!

Think about it the next time you pick up a carton of tea - you're dealing in stolen merchandise! In 1848 Fortune was tapped by the East India Company to return to China, somehow finagle his way into an area that was forbidden and bring back all there was to know about the horticulture and making of tea. At that time China had tea more than tied up - that country controlled all the world's supply and kept it hidden from foreigners. It was as simple a fact then as now - money. The British East India company was no longer in a position to trade, so if it could find out how to grow its own tea it would lose mega dollars (or pounds in this case).

Fortune more than rose to the challenge. His disguised himself as Chinese complete with mandarin's robes and pigtail. However, his physical transformation was not his most daunting task - he needed to swipe the plants, convince some tea workers to come with him and get all safely back to India.

Sarah Rose has compiled an exciting Victorian adventure filled with risk, danger and almost fatal errors. Fortune is one of our most fascinating historical figures, and a mysterious one. He died in 1880 and we read, "Little is known about how he spent the very last years of his life. For reasons of her own, his wife, Jane, burned all his papers and personal effects upon his death." What stories they might hold!

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 96 reviews
46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
A Swashbuckling Scientist and Gardener! 18 Mar 2010
By Miz Ellen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sarah Rose has rescued the aptly named Robert Fortune from the footnotes of Victorian obscurity and written an engrossing story explaining one of the great heists of history: how the British stole tea plants from China and successfully transplanted them in India. It's a spy story for gardeners in which daring-do and botany coexist on every page.

Robert Fortune was the son of a Scottish farm worker. Lacking the means to get a formal education, Fortune learned his skills from practical apprenticeship and obtained a post at the Royal Horticultural Society garden at Chiswick. His skill at cultivating rare blooms from the Orient in hothouses earned him a ticket to China at the end of the First Opium War. His mandate was to collect rare plants and study the botany of China. He almost died there. As he lay gravely ill, the Chinese junk he was on was attacked by pirates. Fortune roused, rushed up on deck and organized a successful defense. The incident illustrates his courage and resource when confronted by adversity.

On his return to London in 1847, he wrote a book about his experiences in China that became a bestseller. When the British East India Company looked around for a man capable of penetrating into the interior of China and obtaining plant specimens and seeds for purposed tea plantations in India, Fortune was the man they turned to.

This is a fascinating book on many fronts. As a story of corporate espionage, it touches on issues of trade and economics that are controversial today. The technology used to bring viable seeds and plants to India is astounding when one considers that sailing ships were the transportation means of that era. A spotlight is put on the opium trade, an issue that still resonates. Sarah Rose writes with a lively, clear style that makes this a hard book to put down. I recommend this book to historians, tea drinkers, economists, gardeners and corporate policy makers. Brew up a cup and enjoy!
76 of 96 people found the following review helpful
Nonfiction? 12 Mar 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One thing that this book has going for it - and the only thing, really - is that the topic is interesting. I love looking at globalization from a historical perspective, and this does that. I do have a background in history - I am not an academic, but my undergraduate degree was in the field. As such, I was a little skeptical about her comment in the Notes "As this is a work of popular history, not a scholarly undertaking, I have avoided the use of footnotes and tried to steer clear of mentioning sources in the body of the text. Nevertheless, this is a work of nonfiction..." However, I decided that if she could pull off the story than I'd give her that it is in fact a work of popular nonfiction (even though that's assuming that non-academics don't want to know where she got her information).
The problem with this approach that I discovered shortly into the book, is that the entire work comes off as pure conjecture. On one page, Rose will note that there is little in the way of primary source material on Fortune's life - that his wife destroyed much of it, if it ever existed, upon his death. There is no clear way of looking into how Fortune was as a private man. On the next page she'll be describing how Fortune reacted or felt about certain things. Yet she repeatedly notes that there is actually no information to support how Fortune might have felt. How can you claim to be nonfiction when you are writing a story that is pieced together with your own imagination?
I suppose I could get past that irritant if the story itself was well written - but it's not. The writing style is jilted and wandering with occasional side notes that are unnecessary. Overall, I would not recommend this book.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"Tea is not so much a thing as a cupful of effects" 24 Feb 2010
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The genre of how one product changed our lives flourishes, and perhaps Britain more than America was so altered by the export of cheap, tasty black tea in Victorian times. Yet, Rose shows how globalization, the drug trade, rapid transport, and botanical espionage and corporate deceit managed to boost Robert Fortune into his modest role as the East India Company's operative who'd pluck Chinese tea seeds and smuggle them out in glass boxes to India, where they would become the hybrids mingled with Himalayan plants to make the black tea we enjoy today.

This would earn billions for a British empire tangled in the opium trade with a restive China, and replace that nation's supply of tea with that grown by its more reliable subjects in India. This shift kept English domination, expanded globalization, set off quicker tea clippers to bring tea to an invigorated porcelain and clay manufacturing region, and would increase health standards as less beer and more water was boiled and then brewed.

Tea picking, she explains, is as if the topmost boughs and last couple of leaves of a Christmas tree were selected. Extremely laborious to gather, 32,000 shoots make ten pounds, nearly what a picker could gather in a day. Five pounds of fresh leaves produce one dry pound.

I found such details intriguing. As Vine offers a proof to read, I do not know if maps and pictures will be included, but no such evidence is in my copy. These features would have enriched the text, for while Rose tells the journeys of Fortune carefully, Western readers unfamiliar with China might have benefited from charts here. Also, the Sepoy Mutiny episode, however crucial to the hold of the East India Company and the British empire over India, appears tangential to merit its own chapter, however skillfully summarized.

Rose tells Fortune's own dramatic story well. As he wrote his own account, there is necessary paraphrase and citation, but largely we hear it retold by Rose rather than recounted by Fortune. Along the way we learn about gardens as incorporating the dimension of time into space, of Chinese "face," the sordid coolie trade, opium dens, Enfield rifles, pirates, and how Fortune gave his name to the edible fruit he found, Citrus fortunei, or the kumquat. His 13,000 original seedlings in terraria failed to survive, but another batch did, and from these, the Assam tea business and Darjeeling blends thrive today. He also learned what confounded earlier botanists: while green and black tea plants are harvested separately in different regions, the tea is from the same plant, Camellian sinensis, but only black is cured or "harvested." Cheap sugar boosted the British preference for a tea able to take milk and sugar, the black kind. But, the Indian Assam variety originally was too harsh for European palates, and a hybrid from the protected Chinese varietals was demanded.

Fortune's journey along the "Bohea" Great Tea Road is the highlight of this narrative. At the Wuyi Shan monastery, Buddhists cultivated the craft. Today, the Da Hong Pao type is still guarded by armed men, worth far more than its weight in gold. Here, Fortune found the seeds he'd sneak out that would become today's tea stock. It was a business even around 1850 bringing in $650 million annually in today's money, and out of such a lucrative commerce, Rose demonstrates, globalized networks began to extend that we rely on today with Asia and beyond.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
just my cup of tea 17 Mar 2010
By Shannon B Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fans of food journalism and travel memoirs will find this book is their cup of tea - pun intended. This book tells the history of tea espionage in the 19th century in a fascinating and fast-paced way. It is a non-fiction book, but has aspects of adventure novel as the reader follows the aptly named Mr. Fortune around on his trips in China. Both the British Empire and China are painted with vivid brushstrokes. His adventures and misadventures are quite funny, influenced by his lack of knowledge of Chinese culture and reliance on the sometimes crafty and conniving servants that guide him around China. The book has the best of food journalism in that it made me want to make a cup of tea, and the best of travel journalism in that I can envision those Chinese mountain ranges in my head, and now wish I could visit them.

The only disappointment for me was the end of the book. After the tea arrived back in India safely, I would have been happy to end the book. Because the remainder of the book was more dry and historical, it probably did not need to be included - except for completeness' sake. It was almost like this book was trying to be two things - an all-inclusive history of tea espionage and its effects on British imperialism, and the story of Robert Fortune. The story that grabs the reader is that of Fortune, tea-hunter. The facts about why the East India Trading Company was seeking out tea and hiring botanists to steal the secrets from China are very interesting, and they support the motivation of the journey. The portraits of the historical figures are revealing and apt. But after the story of Mr. Fortune ends, I didn't care so much about the rest of history.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A TALE BREWED WITH THRILLS AND ADVENTURE 6 April 2010
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The subtitle of this fascinating volume is "How England Stole The World's Favorite Drink and Changed History." One may assume that is the author's choice. This reader's choice would be something along the lines of "How Robert Fortune copped a cuppa from the Chinese." Seriously, noted Scottish botanist gardener and plant explorer Fortune is at the heart of this story, and what a tale it is!

Think about it the next time you pick up a carton of tea - you're dealing in stolen merchandise! In 1848 Fortune was tapped by the East India Company to return to China, somehow finagle his way into an area that was forbidden and bring back all there was to know about the horticulture and making of tea. At that time China had tea more than tied up - that country controlled all the world's supply and kept it hidden from foreigners. It was as simple a fact then as now - money. The British East India company was no longer in a position to trade, so if it could find out how to grow its own tea it would lose mega dollars (or pounds in this case).

Fortune more than rose to the challenge. His disguised himself as Chinese complete with mandarin's robes and pigtail. However, his physical transformation was not his most daunting task - he needed to swipe the plants, convince some tea workers to come with him and get all safely back to India.

Sarah Rose has compiled an exciting Victorian adventure filled with risk, danger and almost fatal errors. Fortune is one of our most fascinating historical figures, and a mysterious one. He died in 1880 and we read, "Little is known about how he spent the very last years of his life. For reasons of her own, his wife, Jane, burned all his papers and personal effects upon his death." What stories they might hold!

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke
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