For All the Tea in China: Evening with Author Sarah Rose

Part business story, part crime caper, part adventure saga, Sarah Rose's For All the Tea in China is the dramatic account of the greatest act of corporate espionage in history—how in 1848 a Scottish horticulturalist, acting on behalf of the British East India Company, snuck into China and stole the closely guarded secrets of tea cultivation.

For nearly 200 years the British East India Company had shipped opium grown in India to China and traded it for tea. The company reaped enormous profits, and millions poured into British government coffers from taxes levied when the tea landed on British shores.

But by the 1840s, the British had a problem. The Chinese, who had never allowed foreigners access to the interior areas of the country where the tea was grown, were threatening to produce their own opium, leaving the British with nothing with which to trade.

Their solution? To snatch tea plants and seeds from China and start growing tea in India, then under British control. "The task required a plant hunter, a gardener, a thief, a spy," Rose writes.

They found their man in Robert Fortune.

Rose will discuss and read from her lively account of Fortune's adventures at 7:00 pm on June 17 at the United Way of Greater Houston. The event is presented by Asia Society Texas Center.

For All the Tea in China is popular history at its best. Rose, who has written extensively on food and travel, weaves together historical and scientific background with a compelling narrative of the Scotsman's experiences in China. Disguised as a mandarin, complete with the traditional pigtail, Fortune battled pirates, suspicious locals, and his own untrustworthy servants to reach tea-growing regions and successfully smuggle out plants.

Following her talk, Rose will sign books, which Brazos Bookstore will have for sale on site.

"With her probing inquiry and engaging prose, Sarah Rose paints a fresh and vivid account of life in rural 19th-century China and Fortune's fateful journey into it .... If ever there was a book to read in the company of a nice cuppa, this is it."
—The Washington Post

"A story that should appeal to readers who want to be transported on a historic journey laced with suspense, science and adventure."
—The Associated Press

Thanks to our promotional partner, the Jewish Community Center of Houston

Event Details

Thu 17 Jun 2010
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
United Way of Houston 50 Waugh Dr. Houston
Free for Asia Society members, $5 non-members (payable at door)
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