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For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,452 ratings  ·  304 reviews
"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 fa
ebook, 272 pages
Published March 18th 2010 by Penguin Books (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.

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
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
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
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.
Abigail Bok
For All the Tea in China is an adventure story in the guise of a history book, and is a delight to read. It follows the work of botanist Robert Fortune, who in the 1840s was tasked by the British East India Company to travel illegally into the Chinese hinterland and steal high-quality tea plants and seeds, as well as the secrets to processing both green and black tea. The Company wished to undercut the Chinese tea trade and establish tea plantations in India, where they would be under the Compan ...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
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
Michael Pryor
Great story about the espionage behind the British acquisition of tea and its transplanting to India, but the writing plodded a little - perhaps imitating the meandering journeys? Worth a read, though.
This story of industrial espionage, is not as riveting as it could have been. I was fascinated by the technology that allowed plant cuttings to be nurtured on long sea voyages.
Who knew there was so much cloak and dagger history behind the every-day cuppa? Sarah Rose tells all as she recounts the story of Fortune's travels in China to seek out the seed and root stock of the best teas in order to establish a rival, British-controlled industry in India. In telling this story, Rose regales us with the reasons why tea became the most popular drink in the westernised world and explains many of the rituals we dedicated tea-drinkers associate with the beverage. I recommend th ...more
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.
Danae Dracht
Rose provides an engaging, informative narrative that reads much like a storybook, excusing the academic necessity for citations, footnotes, or exact dates and details. In her notes preceding the index in the back of the book, Rose states:

As this is a work of popular history, not 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, and anything in quotes comes from a letter,
Dan Dundon
The subtitle of this work - "How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History" was enough to get me to read the book. Sarah Rose was able to substantiate the claim by connecting the tea trade to such historic developments as the construction of clipper ships to carry this precious cargo to the west in record times. I have to admit I never really considered tea to be such a previous commodity until I read this book and achieved a better understanding of the importance of the trade ...more
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
Clark Hays
The history of tea: steeped in intrigue

This book covers an amazing period in history, the mid-1900s, when the tea trade was second only in profits to the opium trade, China was impenetrable and cloaked in mystery and English botanists roamed the world Indiana Jones-style purloining plants, stuffing them in Wardian cases (specially-designed glass boxes akin to terrariums) and shipping them back to “jolly old” on slow boats. At the time, the monolithic British East India Company was trading opium
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Sarah Rose is a writer living in New York. She was educated at Harvard and the University of Chicago.
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