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For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  1,085 ratings  ·  255 reviews
Robert Fortune was a Scottish gardener, botanist, plant hunter - and industrial spy. In 1848, the East India Company engaged him to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China - territory forbidden to foreigners - to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea. For centuries, China had been the world's sole tea manufacturer. Britain purchased this fuel for its Empire b ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 5th 2009 by Hutchinson (first published March 1st 2009)
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Rating Clarification: 4.5 Stars

Engaging, highly readable and very informative. The perfect reading balance of entertainment and education. Provided just what I love about well-written non-fiction. 1/2 star deducted due to a very lackluster, tacked-on conclusion.

This book should be riveting, but I found it less than interesting. I think this is so because I listened to it on audio and was unengaged by the reader. The book is read by the author, who is a fine writer, but a terrible reader: to the point of being outright distracting. Her voice is little-girlish, and she lacks flow when reading. I think I will go back and actually read this, because there is a good story in here. Perhaps it won't seem as choppy when I read the text. I strongly caution anyo ...more
Sarah Rose focuses on an important, but somewhat obscure subplot of the history of the British imperialism in Asia -- Scottish botanist Robert Fortune's employment by the East India Company to steal tea plants, as well as the relevant technologies and expertise, from the Chinese. His work will allow India to start producing well-regarded tea of its own, taking some of the power away from the Chinese and helping tea to grow in popularity by opening up the market and reducing prices. It's an impor ...more
Jun 13, 2010 Jodi rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: tea lovers, English &/or Chinese history fans
In preparation for my trip to China a year and a half ago I read everything about China I could get my hands on. I still love to read books about China because it is such an interesting culture......this book didn't disappoint. I struggled with 3 or 4 stars though because sometimes I had to go back and reread because it seemed to jump from one idea to the next with little transition. However, the story of Robert Fortune infiltrating a country that was pretty much closed to the outside world and ...more
I loved this book.
On Amazon a few people have pointed out inaccuracies such as monetary conversions and mixing up 'English' and 'British'. Honestly, I didn't notice any of these and as I haven't got a memory for facts and figures it doesn't bother me much. What I did notice was a great story.

I've read a lot of factual books and they seem to fall into two categories:
Those which present just the facts - there will be very little dialogue or embellishment
Those which craft a story from the facts - t
Kirk Battle
Part adventure story, part economics of trade, part social history, it does a really good job of covering all the angles of what's happening in the world. It helps that I'm a tea fanatic and only order the good stuff, so learning about the tea making process has been fun as the English steal it. You basically had these two countries selling each other drugs, the British dumping opium into China and then the Chinese selling tea to the English. It's neat that the main character is this botanist wh ...more
Corporate theft and espionage ~ all for a good cuppa! Well, not just for a good cup of tea; more to keep and expand Britain's world supremecy in the nineteenth century. Sarah Rose's exploration into the transplanting of tea from China to India is filled with a wide variety of topics, as well as unforseen outcomes. The book covers topics from botany and Wardian cases (early, very large terrariums that kept propagated tea plants alive during months at sea) to the geopolitics of the times (swapping ...more
An interesting popular history follows the botanical career of Robert Fortune in bringing Chinese tea to India and dashing the Chinese market monopoly. Drawn from the correspondence and notes of Fortune during the mid-1800s, it lacks drama but describes well the steps and misteps taken by the East India Company in trying to build the tea trade.

Rose also does a nice job of summarizing the impact of tea on English culture, particularly at the end where she credits it with overcoming problems with
Some authors should not read their own books. Imagine an excitable fourth grader reading her own screenplay aloud, doing all the voices. We made it through one disk.
Gail Cooke
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 For
[For All the Tea in China : How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History] by Sarah Rose 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 p ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Kendra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Recommended to Kendra by: Martha
Shelves: nonfiction
For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History packs quite a mouthful of a name, but don't let the title fool you: this is quite a compact and readable volume, packed full of insight, and served with a good dollop of humor.
Here, Sarah Rose gives her readers a straightforward adventure story, inhabited by a hero-figure Anglophiles have long loved--the intrepid Scottish botanist--and a setting that conjures up the mystique of the Orient--the tea fields
I'd like to like this book more, but unfortunately it was really hard to listen to. Sarah Rose, the author, published the book herself and then also narrated the audiobook version herself. I legitimately have GOT to give her props for her DIY attitude--I think it's totally rad that she tried to do all this work herself. If more authors read their own books, there would be more audiobooks. One of the inhibiting factors in audiobook production is the cost of the narrator and the studio. Smaller pu ...more
A very informative bildungsroman of Robert Fortune, a Scot from a small rural village who, despite his humble working class background, was indispensable to the crreation of the lucrative tea plantations of North India.
This book takes place during the era of British plant hunters who roamed the colonies looking for new plants to cultivate in the prestigeous Royal Botanic Garden of Kew and the Chelsea Physics Garden, both located in London.
This was the era of the mid 19th century when Britain's t
Barbara Atlas
This was a great listen, read by the young Harvard & Chicago-educated author. It was a fun and enlightening explanation of how the British empire imposed its will on China and India. I am ordering a hard copy so I can learn a bit more by reading it, and hopefully, studying maps and pictures.

According to Goodreads, "Robert Fortune was a Scottish gardener, botanist, plant hunter - and industrial spy. In 1848, the East India Company engaged him to make a clandestine trip into the interior of C

The Thrill to Conquer, but Politely

The exotic histories of everyday items never fails to astonish me. Coffee, tea, salt, chocolate, tobacco, rubber, oil, opium, cotton, cod, spices, sugar: these stand out as some of the major commodities upon which empires have been built. Reading the exploits of intrepid botanists, who scaled mountain peaks and slashed through rain forests undertaking searches for new and useful plants, has long been a favorite adventure genre. Sarah Rose's For All the Tea in C

Jen K.
All tea drinkers should read this book, which is the story of Robert Fortune. Don't know him? If you love tea, you should. You have Robert to thank for getting it into your hands. He went deep into China as a spy for the British empire, and sent back the live plants, seeds, and secrets that would introduce tea growing to India (then a part of the empire), reducing the prices and increasing the quality and quantity available to tea drinkers. Sarah's account of Robert Fortune's story is imaginativ ...more
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 gre ...more
I loved this story of how the British stole tea plants and seeds from the Chinese, in order to cultivate tea in India. Initially the East India company sold the Chinese opium in exchange for tea.
Then the Chinese outlawed opium. This caused the British to hire Robert Fortune, a plant hunter who they then sent to the innermost parts of China to steal plants and seeds. His adventures in a country that was off limits to foreigners were amazing. He also had to deal with the incompetence of those who
First of all, Sarah Rose should not have read her own book. It makes you realize what a professional actor can bring to an audio book. (She was just soooo dramatic!)

As for the book itself, I love books where the object changes the world. However, I suspected that Ms. Rose was "adding" to the historical narrative when she reports conversations that the the servants of the main character (an English man with limited Chinese language skills) had. I don't think the servants left "papers" for histori
The story of Fortune and history of tea itself are really very interesting, however, this book reads rather like a textbook, a bit dry. I do think a map would have been helpful as well, the authur takes us from England to China and India. We learn of journeys to various mountain ranges, and up and down various rivers, but without a map of the 1850's China and India the reader is lost.
I wish the author had attempted to recreate more of the history and tell an intriguing story for us instead of ju
My advice is, avoid the audio/CD version of this book. It was terrible.
Kater Cheek

This isn't quite a book like SALT or THE PERFECT RED that covers every possible aspect of a world-changing commodity. It's kind of pick and choose about what aspects of the tea trade it covers closely and which ones it doesn't.

This is meant to be a book about how one man with the unlikley name of Fortune, snuck into China and stole cuttings and seeds and eventually Chinese nationals in order to start a secondary tea-producing center in the British-controlled Himalayas. Along the way the author t
Rebecca Huston
Interesting story, some things I had never heard about before, but I wished for more detail and a map tracing Robert Fortune's adventures in China. Three and a half stars rounded up to four. Somewhat recommended, but tea fanciers should enjoy this one.

For the complete review, please go here:
Rebecca Angel
This was an account of how after the Opium wars, a Brit named Fortune disguised himself as Chinese (despite being a Scot), infiltrated the famed tea regions of China, stole plants, seeds, and a group of men who could process the tea, and sent them all to India. Why? So Great Britain didn't have to rely on China for its tea addiction. The story is mostly about the travels in China, with some historical and botanical background. The history is done throughout the book, so there isn't any dry secti ...more
great read. so informative and helps me understand so much better what England and the E India tea co was doing and it's role in ruling India in the 1800's. Explanation of the Opium Wars and the acquiring of Hong Kong--all and not to mention all about tea! Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thoroughly.
At times thrilling, at times bizarre, and at times dry, this book has everything that human history tends to have, with the addition of perhaps the most influential beverage in said history: tea. There's this movement going on in food where we want to better understand where our habits of consumption come from, and if you are an avid tea drinker, this is a great way to better understand how this drink came into our hands. You will walk away from this book knowing just how tea shaped the world ec ...more
I had to delete a star because the audiobook was negatively impacted by the voice and timbre of the reader. In some cases an author can also be talented as a readed, Frank McCourt being one in particular. Not the case for this author.
This book for me was a "very good read", it held my intrest throughout, I enjoy History and good well written story.
This book satisfied both I shall not forget the content and presentation of both, in an entertaining and ironic fashion.
Rebecca Budd
I will never drink tea again without thinking about "For All The Tea in China." Every chapter was filled with dangerous expectation: pirates, opium dens, secrets and thieves. Robert Fortune changed the world.
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There is more than one author with this name.

Sarah Rose is a writer living in New York. She was educated at Harvard and the University of Chicago.
More about Sarah Rose...
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