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Why Did the Scotsman Go to China
April 10, 2015
Hi Tea Lovers,

A Scottsman In China

Tea, this beverage and history crosses vast contients. It has shaped history in a subtle way and a few only know just how much Tea has done this.

So I want to introduce to you a Scottsman by the name of Robert Fortune. He became a spy for the British.

So, what does this person have to do with tea? I will tell you more in a bit. But first let’s give credit, where credit is due.

The Chinese are the ones who have discovered, cultivated, and introduced this leaf to the world. The Dutch were the first to bring it to Europe. Later the British adopted this leafy brew in the 1700’s.

When the British feel in love with tea the demand became huge. China did not want to trade British goods for their Tea.

They demanded Silver for payment. Soon the British supply of silver dropped, they had to get it back. The Opium trade began, silver started following back in England.

But when the Opium Wars ended and the East India Company losing its hole on the China Tea Trade, something had to happen.

With the Brits appetite for Tea, it was becoming urgent for the them to secure a more reliable source. There was a problem with this.

Chinese tea production was kept a secret.

What made it more difficult was that the plantations were off limits to foreigners, and if anyone gave any information on tea productions were put to death by the Chinese goverment.

So in 1848 a Scotsman by the name of Robert Fortune was dispatched to China. He was a botanist. His mission: to be the British Empires first Tea Spy.

This Scottish Botanist was to go undercover because Britain needed the expert knowledge of the Chinese way of growing, cultivating and processing tea leaves.

In the past some had managed to sneak tea seeds out of China, but had little success in producing a good quality tea plant.

The British were looking for this tall Scottish Botanist to save England from their tea woes. Imagine a tall person blending in with the Chinese people. I'd have to call this, "Bravey"

After arriving in China he had his head shaved and began calling himself Sing Wa. Because of his height he dressed like a Mandarin and traveled in a Sedan chair when crossing over land. The rest of the time he traveled by boat.

Unknowing at the time was that this Scotsman became one of the first spy’s in a modern case of international industrial espionage. "Fortune, Robert Fortune, Tea Hot not Cold."

This was the mission:

Robert’s mission was to collect seeds, take notes on cultivation and production techniques. If at all possible he was to convince Chinese tea workers to move to India to begin tea production there.

Traveling in disguise he was able to infiltrate the tea plantations and collect much needed data, seeds and even a few plants. Was also able to acquiring experienced tea workers who were seeking a better life elsewhere.

Then in the spring of 1851 he sailed away from Hong Kong with 4 boats loaded with some 2,000 plants and 17,000 seedlings. The secrets of China’s Tea Production soon disappeared on a foggy spring morning on the South China Sea.

Want to learn more about loose leaf tea, please check out for new information on tea.

Enjoy a cup of Tea daily.

Loose Leaf Tea Spy

This is only a little taste of the history of tea, want to learn more look into this book, Two Visits to the Tea Countries of China and the British Tea Plantations in the Himalaya: With a Narrative of Adventures, and a Full Description of ... Horticulture, and Botany of China. Volume 2

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