Saturday, 21 April 2012

BOTANIST STOLE HIGHLY GUARDED TEA FROM CHINA




ROBERT FORTUNE

A most unusual story about a cup of tea and a young botanist. His name was Robert Fortune and he was born in 1812 in Kello, Berwickshire, Scotland.

His career as a botanist took off and he soon excelled himself as a horticultural expert. First he worked in the botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Later on he was at the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens in London's Chiswick.
China was the only producer of quality tea (some blends were grown in India) and for 200 years the British East India Company had been selling opium to China and bought tea in return. They then sold the tea round the world. Britain feared that China, eventually, will grow their opium and therefore would stop trading with tea.
The East India Company realized that tea could be grown in the Indian Himalayan range which has similar condition as China's best tea growing region. It has a high-altitude, rich soil, clouded in mists to water the tea plants and shade them from the scorching sun, while frost would enhance the flavour. The only problem was that the best tea grew only in China. The green and black tealeaves came from the same plant. Robert Fortune was the first European to discover this. China guarded the secret and plants with everything that was necessary. It was treated like liquid gold.
The East India Company wanted Robert Fortune to be a horticultural spy. He had to infiltrate the tea plantations of China and obtain the precious seedling and transport it to India. This was a highly dangerous task.  He was to steal the secrets of tea-making from the people who had jealously guarded them for thousands of years.
If he was caught, he would have died a horrible death, either by the authorities, or thieves and vagabonds, he met going into the heart of China. Even Marco Polo never managed to go that far. Fortune was a brave man and in September he arrived in Shanghai. The only way to reach his goal was to disguise himself as a Chinese Mandarin.
The Chinese servant sews a long, coarse, black braid into the back of his hair. The servant used a blunt needle threaded with horsehair and it hang down to his waist. Fortune took with him two men. One was his hairdresser and also acted as a coolie. Another man called Wang who was educated. Wang was his business manager and interpreter but Fortune's Chinese improved fast.



TEA BUSH




Since Mr Fortune was going deeper into China than the authorities allowed he had to protect himself and his servants. His servant shaved the top of his head which is a fealty to the emperor. The Coolie did this with a rusty blade.  Mr Fortune learned how to used chopsticks, Chinese customs and kowtow instead of hand shakes. He travelled by sedan chair and tried to disguise his height which was unusual for a Mandarin.
At the start of the journey they went through cities and more than once avoided discovery. His servants loved picking fights with outsiders and amongst themselves.
At first he stole from a factory near the Yangtze River and shipped it to India but it died on the journey.
When he went into the heart of China and kept his plants alive during the journey in a sort of portable greenhouse, he succeeded. He managed 20,000 tea plants and seedlings which he took to Darjeeling in India. Furthermore, he employ a few tea experts after a few years in China. They went with Mr Fortune to India and helped and advised how to plant the tea.
When the Chinese noticed the theft, many years later, it was too late to do anything about. It helped to distribute the sale of tea at a lower price and introduced the world to tea.
After this great venture there isn't any recording of Robert Fortune's life. The only record was found that he died in London in 1880.
A new book was written about Robert Fortune's extra ordinary achievements called 'For All The Tea In China' by Sarah Rose which will give you a lot more details.
INFORMATION WAS GIVEN BY MR LEE SNASHFORD THAT A NEW MONUMENT WAS UNVEILED AT MR FORTUNE'S CEMETRY ON 15 OCTOBER 2010 AT BROMPTON CEMETRY.
HE INTRODUCED 130 NEW PLANTS TO THIS COUNTRY.
AT ONE TIME HE FOUGHT OFF FIVE PIRATE SHIPS ON THE MIN RIVER IN CHINA WITH JUST A PISTOL.
http://www.awltovhc.com/image-2103840-5902068
Top of Form
Bottom of Form

No comments:

Post a Comment