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For All the Tea in China

by: Sarah Rose

New York NY: Penguin Group 2010, $15.00, Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-14-3118749

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2012 Issue: 19(3) page(s): 22

Subtitled: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History, The Washington Post says, "If ever there was a book to read in the company of a nice cuppa, this is it." We agree and learned how botanist Robert Fortune completed several missions of espionage stealing China’s tea plants and seeds. This story of corporate espionage, with or without that mug of England's empire building beverage, is a good read.

Actually, Fortune needs three forays, each some three years in length with a long-braided que sewn onto the back of his neck to succeed. He practices thievery par excellence as he manages to change the consumption of tea in Briton, Europe, and the entire western world.

The author calls the book a work of popular history, avoids footnotes, and does not mention her sources. Nevertheless, as Rose says at the end, it is nonfiction relying heavily on Robert Fortune's four memoirs, his letters to the East India Company, and various other documents found in the British Library. With about five hundred resources as the basis for this tale, this is engrossing non-fiction written as if it were fiction, with no tea recipes, just solid though liquid historical accompaniments, all tasty and terrific. Drink up the information and enjoy!

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