"The best parts of the book are not the dangers that Fortune encountered, but Rose's assured, confident descriptions of the manufacture of tea. Like Fortune, the reader goes on a journey of discovery" ( Mail on Sunday)
"Had your cup of tea this morning? If not, the next time you take a gulp of PG Tips or a sip of single estate orange pekoe you might want to send up a prayer of thanks for the dogged Scotsman who made it all possible, Robert Fortune ... Rose's account is full of colour" ( The Times)
"[Fortune's] story is well worth the telling, and Rose does so with skill and restraint" ( Literary Review)
"Reshapes into gripping prose Fortune's own memoirs and letters ... An enthusiastic tale of how the humble leaf became a global addiction" ( Financial Times)
"Reveals our cuppa wouldn't exist if it wasn't for an amazing Victorian, armed only with a rusty pistol and a pigtail, who stole the secret of tea from under the nose of China's ruthless warlords" ( Daily Mail)
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 by trading opium to the Chinese - a poisonous relationship Britain fought two destructive wars to sustain. The East India Company had profited lavishly as the middleman, but it was now sinking, having lost its monopoly to trade tea. Its salvation, it thought, was to establish its own plantations in the Himalayas of British India.
There were just two problems: India had no tea plants worth growing, and the company wouldn't have known what to do with them if it had.
Hence Robert Fortune's daring trip. The Chinese interior was off-limits and virtually unknown to the West, but that's where the finest tea was grown - the richest oolongs, soochongs and pekoes. And the Emperor aimed to keep it that way.
In a Mandarin's dress, with a black braid sewn into his hair, Robert Fortune ventured deep inside the country, risking his life for science, adventure, and a place among the great plant explorers.
From Kew Gardens to grimy Old Shanghai, and on to the remote Wu Yi Shan hills, Sarah Rose tells a true tale of pirates, rebels, subterfuge, espionage, and how one man triumphed over an exotic and corrupt Empire.
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