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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A TALE BREWED WITH THRILLS AND ADVENTURE, 30 Jun 2010
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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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