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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[Fortune's] story is well worth the telling, and despite the dearth of private papers, Rose does so with skill and restraintBook Description :
In the 1850s, stealing the secret of China tea was like stealing the secret formula for Coca-Cola
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Description du livre Hutchinson, 2009. Hardcover. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire P110091797063