For All the Tea in China

How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History

Tea met all the definitions of intellectual property: it was a product of high commercial value, it was manufactured using a formula and process unique to China, which China protected fiercely; and it gave China a vast advantage over its competitors.

Robert Fortune was a plant hunter sent to China by the East India Company to steal tea plants. He shipped them to Great Britain’s greatest possession, India, where they would be grown, giving England its own source of a precious commodity, thus bringing the price of tea down and making it available to England’s citizens.

This is a fun book on many levels: 19th century, England, China, espionage, horticulture, tea and opium.

I listened to the audio book, read by the author. I found her voice a bit off-putting. I have found few audiobooks read by authors that I’m crazy about. My interest lagged at times. This is the kind of book which required close attention: unfamiliar place names and era, scientific, political and economic considerations of a complex subject. I listened to several discs more than once to keep up with the details.

Recommended for history buffs, tea enthusiasts, and science lovers.

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I enjoy participating in Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books.

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