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Espionage and Empire First Corporate Espionage Ever Recorded

EIC commits First Corporate Espionage!

The East India Company was the first corporation which led to owning shares of stock, dividends. ​

In 1842 The East India Company sent Dr John Forbes Royal (Forbes Family in China) to the gardens at Chiswick to talk to Robert Fortune about their plan on May 7, 1848.

September 1848
Robert Fortune was hired by John Forbes ( State John F. Kerry's ancestor ) of the EIC to go to Shanghai and steal Tea bushes, seeds, and technique. 

All the corporate intelligence to engage in espionage for the Royal British Opium Drug Smuggling Pirate Queen Victoria. 

Robert Fortune, A Residence among the Chinese: Inland, On the Coast, and at Sea. Being a narrative of scenes and adventures during a third visit to China, from 1853-1856, including notices of many natural productions and works of art, the culture of silks, &c, or (London, John Murray, 1857)

Historic New England Gardens - Robert Fortune and John Perkins Cushing
Reviewed Work: So Fine a Prospect: Historic New England Gardens by Alan Emmet and in 2016 Himalayan seeds 'illegally sold' in UK

China Tea and Robert Fortune

'For All the Tea in China' | Download | Transcript

For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History
By Sarah Rose March 28, 2010
By the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface, and yet its weakness had everything to do with tiny leaves soaked in hot water. By 1800, tea was easily the most popular drink in the country. The problem? All the tea in the world came from China, and Britain couldn't control the quality or the price. So around 1850, a group of British businessmen set out to create a tea industry in a place they did control: India.
For All the Tea In China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History is Sarah Rose's account of the effort to control the tea market, what she calls the "greatest single act of corporate espionage in history." "The task required a plant hunter, a gardener, a thief, a spy. The man Britain needed was Robert Fortune," Rose writes. Fortune was the agent sent to sneak out of China the plants and secrets of tea production. Before Fortune, England engaged in trade with China, sending opium in exchange for tea.
"The Chinese emperor hated that opium was the medium of exchange, because a nation of drug addicts was being created. So the emperor confiscated all the opium [and] destroyed it," Rose tells NPR's Guy Raz. "England sent warships. And at the end of the day, they realized that if they were going to keep pace with the British tea consumption and not deal with the Chinese, they had to own it themselves." Enter Robert Fortune, a botanist in an era when the natural sciences were on the ascent in Britain. Think of botanists in mid-19th century England as research and development scientists in 1970s Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) ­ the company that developed the Ethernet and many other computing technologies, says Rose. Many of these 19th century botanists had university degrees and were trained as doctors, but Fortune, who was Scottish, grew up poor. "He kind of worked his way up through the ranks of professional botany, learning with professional training instead of book training," Rose says.
Around 1845, when the young botanist was in his early 30s, he took a two-year trip to China in search of plants. Upon his return, he published a travelogue in which he described his adventures."He was attacked by pirates, he was attacked by bandits, he encountered all kinds of disease and storms, and he also goes in disguise, dressed up as if he were a wealthy Chinese merchant," Rose says. His memoir having captured the imagination of Victorian society, Fortune was approached by a representative of the East India Trading Company, who asked him to return to China, this time to smuggle tea out of the country.
Fortune succeeded. He managed to get seeds from China to India, and the impact on the tea trade was immense. Within his lifetime, India surpassed China as the world's largest tea grower. "It astonishes me," Rose says. "China has pretty much never really come back from that, certainly not in the Western markets. Now that Asia has such a booming economy, the Chinese are again pretty fierce tea producers. But it took a hundred-plus years."
So was Fortune history's greatest corporate thief, or the man we can thank for the tea we drink? Rose says that to understand his role in the history of tea, it's useful to think of Fortune ­ who considered himself a gardener and China expert ­ in the terms of the market in which he existed. "Today we have Monsanto, and there are patents on everything. But in those days, even the notion of a patent or intellectual property was just being articulated in legal systems. So he didn't see himself as stealing something that didn't belong to him. He thought plants belonged to everybody." To start production in the East India Company's tea gardens, it was critical that he bring back several thousand tea plants, many thousand more seeds, plus the highly specialized techniques of Chinese tea growing and manufacturing.


EIC commits the First Corporate Espionage by Steals the Tea and The knowledge (intellectual property) of how to grow it.

The shift from granting monopolies to the aristocracy through nepotism or preference to granting monopolies to individuals on the basis of originality and contribution to industry laid the groundwork for the contemporary global intellectual property regime.

In 1842 The East India Company sent Dr John Forbes Royal (Forbes Family in China) to the gardens at Chiswick to talk to Robert Fortune about their plan on May 7, 1848.

Robert Fortune was born on September 16, 1812 in Kelloe, a town in Berwickshire, Scotland. Fortune would go to China and bring back as many quality tea plants and seeds as he could; Fortune would also learn as much as he could about tea production from the Chinese. And for this, the East India Company would pay him £500 a year, quintuple his current salary at the Royal Horticultural Society. More importantly, the East India Company, being interested only in tea, would grant Fortune exclusive rights to anything else he could bring back from China. He found out, for example, that the very best tea comes from the leaves at the top of the plant. He also learned the crucial fact that green and black tea were actually made from the same plant, and not different plants, as Europeans had previously believed. Fortune's tea plant seeds were shipped in Wardian cases to Britain's imperial capital at Calcutta. The seeds had not only survived the trip, but had actually germinated! Fortune's plants were successfully transplanted into Indian soil, and over time they were bred with Assam tea to make some of the finest teas the world has ever seen. The IEC was no longer dependent on China for their tea supply. A Journey to the Tea Countries of China

John Kerry Catholic and Skull and Bones

Kerry’s pedigree and the initial money for his education come from his mother, who was born Rosemary Isabel Forbes. The Forbes family had arrived in Massachusetts in the mid-18th century, much later than many of the Boston Brahmins, but Ralph Bennett Forbes soon married Margaret Perkins, a daughter of the notorious family controlling Perkins & Co., one of the selected American firms partnering with the British East India Company in shipping opium from India to China, and tea from China to Europe and North America. Thanks to this strategic marriage, the Forbes were directly allied to families like the Cabots, the Cushings, and others. Ralph Bennett Forbes worked for the Perkins syndicate as an opium-runner. His son, John Murray Forbes, was for a time one of the dominant personalities of the foreign clique controlling the Chinese emperor. John Murray Forbes made a strategic move for the family to go legit, shifting their fortune from opium and slaves into investments in US railroads. John Murray Forbes later played a prominent role in the committee of Boston Brahmins who financed and incited John Brown to carry out murderous provocations against the slaveholding states, not with the goal of ending slavery, but rather with the goal of fomenting a civil war which would destroy the United States government.

The First Company to issue Stock is the East India Company who hired ​

Robert Fortune to steal China's Intellectual Property the first instance of Corporate Espionage ever recorded.

England runs out of silver and decides to steal the tea plants from China and bring them to India so they don't have to pay for it anymore.

Dr. John Forbes Royle: Royle had come to see Fortune on behalf of the East India Company, as their horticultural adviser, to discuss the subject of tea. Also a Scot, Royle had grown up with the company and was practically raised in it, having attended its military academy at Addiscombe. He went to India in 1819 and, upon discovering the joys of botany. Falconer another a dedicated East India man, was as good a custodian for Fortune’s tea seeds as he could wish to have. Fortune and Falconer, two gardeners, were of one mind when it came to the need to steal tea from China.

British laws and British investors would oversee the sale and merchandising of Himalayan tea; there would be no middlemen, no double-dealing, no Chinese-style obfuscation. Labor in India was at least as cheap as in China, both countries having a surfeit of manpower. The quality would eventually improve, and the prices would drop so that leaves that were picked for a penny could be sold for £3 in London. Growing tea would be like printing money. As the clerk closed the bags of tea, he sealed them with the wax stamp of the East India Company. Each was sent to one of the esteemed tea brokers of London, the blenders, tasters, and traders whose noses and palates determined the price of a commodity and the fate of nations: Messrs. R. Gibbs & Co., Peek Brothers & Co., Miller & Lowcock, and the revered House of Twinings.

For the Himalayan tea experiment, the company shopping list was short but precise: It sought China’s materials, her best seeds, and China’s tea knowledge, in the form of Chinese tea makers and tea manufacturing implements.The company was well aware that getting tea out of China would be a difficult undertaking and impossible to achieve through normal diplomatic channels. As Her Majesty’s consul in Shanghai, Rutherford Alcock, warned Viscount Hardinge, "It will suggest itself no doubt to your Excellency that the Chinese are likely to regard any demand on my part for tea seeds or plants with great jealousy, and that the attempts in conjunction with efforts to obtain seeds, to induce Chinese skilled in the cultivation and manufacture of tea to leave their country and proceed to India for the purpose of instructing people, must inevitably fail" In other words, if the East India Company wanted tea for India, it would have to steal it.

Tea met all the definitions of intellectual property:

It was a product of high commercial value; it was manufactured using a formula and process unique to China, which China protected fiercely; and it gave China a vast advantage over its competitors.The notion of intellectual property and trade secrets had been articulated only a few years earlier when a Massachusetts judge ruled in an 1845 patent case that “only in this way can we protect intellectual property, the labors of the mind, productions and interests as much a man’s own . . . as the wheat he cultivates or the flocks he rears.” In the dawn of 1848, the East India Company was planning a project that was nothing short of industrial espionage. If the company’s scheme was successful, the largest multinational corporation in the world, the East India Company, would enact the greatest theft of trade secrets in the history of mankind.

For all the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History

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 now it was 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.

Three Years Wandering in the Northern Provinces of China [1847]

In the wake of the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the Royal Horticultural Society hired the Scottish botanist Robert Fortune (1812-1880) to gather interesting and commercially viable plants from the Chinese interior. The chapter below is taken from his widely acclaimed travelogue of that journey, Three Years Wandering in the Northern Provinces of China, and records his observations of the tea industry in the region of the newly-established treaty port at Ningbo. In 1848, Fortune made a second lengthy visit to China at the behest of the East India Company, this time charged with obtaining tea seeds and plants, as well as the secrets of tea manufacture, with a view to the establishment of a viable tea industry in British India, a task at which he was dramatically successful. An account of this latter journey is also reproduced in Features. Apart from tea, Fortune is credited with having introduced more than 200 useful and ornamental plants from China to the West, including the kumquat, the kiwi fruit and the white wisteria. Sarah Rose's For All the Tea in China, New York: Penguin, 2010, provides a readable account of Fortune's experiences in China that relies heavily on Fortune's own published records of his journeys.—The Editor



There are few subjects connected with the vegetable kingdom which have attracted such a large share of public notice as the tea-plant of China. Its cultivation on the Chinese hills, the particular species or variety which produces the black and green teas of commerce, and the method of preparing the leaves, have always been objects of peculiar interest. The jealousy of the Chinese government, in former times, prevented foreigners from visiting any of the districts where tea is cultivated, and the information derived from the Chinese merchants, even scanty as it was, was not to be depended upon. And hence we find our English authors contradicting each other, some asserting that the black and green trees are produced by the same variety, and that the difference in colour is the result of a different mode of preparation, while others say that the black teas are produced from the plant called by botanists Thea Bohea, and the green from Thea viridis, both of which we have had for many years in our gardens in England.

During my travels in China since the last war, I have had frequent opportunities of inspecting some extensive tea districts in the black and green tea countries of Canton, Fokien, and Chekiang, and the result of these observations is now laid before the reader. It will prove that even those who have had the best means of judging have been deceived, and that the greater part of the black and green teas which are brought yearly from China to Europe and America are obtained from the same species or variety, namely, from the Thea viridis. Dried specimens of this plant were prepared in the districts I have named by myself, and are now in the herbarium of the Horticultural Society of London, so that there can be no longer any doubt upon the subject.

Fig.1 Frontispiece of Three Years Wandering in the Northern Provinces of China

In various parts of the Canton province, where I had an opportunity of seeing tea cultivated, the species proved to be the Thea Bohea, or what is commonly called the black tea plant. In the green tea districts of the north—I allude more particularly to the province of Chekiang—I never met with a single plant of this species, which is so common in the fields and gardens near Canton. All the plants in the green tea country near Ning-po, on the Islands of the Chusan Archipelago, and in every part of the province which I had an opportunity of visiting, proved, without exception, to be the Thea viridis. Two hundred miles further to the north-west, in the province of Kiang-nan, and only a short distance from the tea hills in that quarter, I also found in gardens this same species of tea.

Thus far my actual observation exactly verified the opinions I had formed on the subject before I left England, viz. that the black teas were prepared from the Thea Bohea, and the green from Thea viridis. When I left the north, on my way to the city of Foo-chow-foo, on the River Min, in the province of Fokien, I had no doubt that I should find the tea hills there covered with the other species, Thea Bohea, from which we generally suppose the black teas are made; and this was the more likely to be the case as this species actually derives its specific name from the Bohee hills in this province. Great was my surprise to find all the plants on the tea hills near Foo-chow exactly the same as those in the green tea districts of the north. Here were then green tea plantations on the black tea hills, and not a single plant of the Thea Bohea to be seen. Moreover, at the time of my visit, the natives were busily employed in the manufacture of black teas. Although the specific differences of the tea-plants were well known to me, I was so much surprised, and I may add amused, at this discovery, that I procured a set of specimens for the herbarium, and also dug up a living plant, which I took northward to Chekiang. On comparing it with those which grow on the green tea hills, no difference whatever was observed.

It appears, therefore, that the black and green teas of the northern districts of China (those districts in which the greater part of the teas for the foreign markets are made) are both produced from the same variety, and that that variety is the Thea viridis, or, what is commonly called the green tea plant. On the other hand, those black and green teas which are manufactured in considerable quantities in the vicinity of Canton are obtained from the Thea Bohea, or black tea. And, really, when we give the subject our unprejudiced consideration, there seems nothing surprising in this state of things. Moreover, we must bear in mind that our former opinions were formed upon statements made to us by the Chinese at Canton, who will say any thing which suits their purpose, and rarely give themselves any trouble to ascertain whether the information they communicate be true or false.

The soil of the tea districts is, of course, much richer in the northern provinces than it is in Quantung. In Fokien and Chekiang it is a rich sandy loam, very different from the sample which will be found noticed in the chapter on climate and soil. Tea shrubs will not succeed well unless they have a rich soil to grow in. The continual gathering of their leaves is very detrimental to their health, and, in fact, ultimately kills them. Hence a principal object with the grower is to keep his bushes in as robust health as possible; and this cannot be done if the soil be poor.

The tea plantations in the north of China are always situated on the lower and most fertile sides of the hills, and never on the low lands. The shrubs are planted in rows about four feet apart and about the same distance between each row, and look, at a distance, like little shrubberies of evergreens.

The farms are small, each consisting of from one to four or five acres; indeed, every cottager has his own little tea garden, the produce of which supplies the wants of his family, and the surplus brings him in a few dollars, which are spent on the other necessaries of life. The same system is practised in every thing relating to Chinese agriculture. The cotton, silk, and rice farms are generally all small and managed upon the same plan. There are few sights more pleasing than a Chinese family in the interior engaged in gathering the tea leaves, or, indeed, in any of their other agricultural pursuits. There is the old man, it may be the grandfather, or even the great-grandfather, patriarch like, directing his descendants in the labours of the field. Many of them are in their youth and prime, while others are in their childhood. He stands in the midst of them, bowed down with age. But, to the honour of the Chinese as a nation, he is always looked up to by all with pride and affection, and his old age and grey hairs are honoured, revered, and loved. When, after the labours of the day are over, they return to their humble and happy homes, their fare consists chiefly of rice, fish, and vegetables, which they enjoy with great zest, and are happy and contented. I really believe that there is no country in the world where the agricultural population are better off than they are in the north of China. Labour with them is pleasure, for its fruits are eaten by themselves, and the rod of the oppressor is unfelt and unknown.

In the green tea districts of Chekiang near Ning-po, the first crop of leaves is generally gathered about the middle of April. This consists of the young leaf-buds just as they begin to unfold, and forms a fine and delicate kind of young hyson, which is held in high estimation by the natives, and is generally sent about in small quantities as presents to their friends. It is a scarce and expensive article, and the picking of the leaves in such a young state does considerable injury to the tea plantations. The summer rains, however, which fall copiously about this season, moisten the earth and air, and if the plants are young and vigorous they soon push out fresh leaves.

In a fortnight or three weeks from the time of the first picking, or about the beginning of May, the shrubs are again covered with fresh leaves, and are ready for the second gathering, which is, in fact, the most important of the season. The third and Last gathering, which takes place as soon as new leaves are formed, produces a very inferior kind of tea, which, I believe, is rarely sent out of the district.

The mode of gathering and preparing the leaves of the tea-plants is extremely simple. We have been so long accustomed to magnify and mystify every thing relating to the Chinese, that, in all their arts and manufactures, we expect to find some peculiar and out of the way practice, when the fact is, that many operations in China are more simple in their character than in most other parts of the world. To rightly understand the process of rolling and drying the leaves, which I am about to describe, it must be borne in mind that the grand object is to expel the moisture, and at the same time to retain as much as possible of the aromatic and other desirable secretions of the species. The system adopted to attain this end is as simple as it is efficacious

In the harvest seasons the natives are seen in little family groups on the side of every hill, when the weather is dry, engaged in gathering the tea leaves. They do not seem so particular, as I imagined they would have been, in this operation, but strip the leaves off rapidly and promiscuously, and throw them all into round baskets made for the purpose out of split bamboo or rattan. In the beginning of May, when the principal gathering takes place, the young seed-vessels are about as large as peas. These are also stripped off and dried with the leaves; it is these seed-vessels which we often see in our tea, and which have some slight resemblance to young capers. When a sufficient quantity of leaves are gathered, they are carried home to the cottage or barn, where the operation of drying is performed.

The Chinese cottages, amongst the tea hills, are simple and rude in their construction, and remind one of what we used to see in Scotland in former years, when the cow and pig lived and fed in the same house with the peasant. Scottish cottages, however, even in these days, were always better furnished and more comfortable than those of the Chinese are at the present time. Nevertheless, it is in these poor cottages that a large proportion of the teas, with their high-sounding names, are first prepared. Barns, sheds, and other outhouses, are also frequently used for the same purpose, particularly about the temples and monasteries.

The drying pans and furnaces in these places are very simply constructed. The pans, which are of iron, and are made as thin as possible, are round and shallow, and, in fact, are the same, or nearly the same, which the natives have in general use for cooking their rice. A row of these are built into brick-work and chunam, having a flue constructed below them, with the grating, or rather fire-place, at one end, and the chimney, or, at least, some hole to allow the smoke to escape, at the other. A chimney is a secondary consideration with the Chinese, and in many instances which came under my observation, the smoke, after passing below the drying pans, was allowed to escape, as it best could, through the doors and roofs of the houses, which, indeed, in China, is no difficult matter.

Fig.2 Furnaces and drying pans

When the pans are first fixed, the brick-work and chunam are smoothed off very neatly round their edges and carried up a little higher, particularly at the back of the pans, at the same time widening gradually. When complete, the whole has the appearance of a row of large high-backed basins, each being three or four times larger than the shallow iron pan which is placed at its bottom, immediately over the flue. When the fire is applied, the upper part of these basins, which is formed of chunam, gets heated as well as the iron pan, though in a less degree. The drying pans, thus formed, being low in front, and rising very gradually at the sides and back, the person, whose duty it is to attend to the drying of the leaves, can readily manage them, and scatter them about over the back of the basin. The accompanying sketch, which was made on the spot, will render this description more clear.

The leaves having been brought in from the hills are placed in the cottage or drying-house. It is now the duty of one individual to light the little fire at the mouth of the flue, and to regulate it as nicely as possible. The pans become hot very soon after the warm air has begun to circulate in the flue beneath them. A quantity of leaves, from a sieve or basket, are now thrown into the pans, and turned over, shaken up, and kept in motion by men and women stationed there for this purpose. The leaves are immediately affected by the heat. They begin to crack, and become quite moist with the vapour or sap which they give out on the application of the heat. This part of the process lasts about five minutes, in which time the leaves lose their crispness, and become soft and pliable. They are then taken out of the pans, and thrown upon a table, the upper part of which is made of split pieces of bamboo as represented in the annexed sketch. Three or four persons now surround the table, and the heap of tea leaves is divided into as many parcels, each individual taking as many as he can hold in his hands, and the rolling process commences. I cannot give a better idea of this operation than by comparing it to a baker working and rolling his dough. Both hands are used in the very same way; the object being to express the sap and moisture, and at the same time to twist the leaves. Two or three times during the operation the little bundles of rolled leaves are held up and shaken out upon the table, and are then again taken up and pressed and rolled as before. This part of the process also lasts about five minutes, during which time a large portion of green juice has been expressed, and may be seen finding its way down between the interstices of the bamboos. The leaves being now pressed, twisted, and curled, do not occupy a quarter of the space which they did before the operation.

Fig.3 The drying process

When the rolling process is completed the leaves are removed from the table and shaken out for the last time, thinly, upon a large sort of screen, also made out of split pieces of bamboo, and are exposed to the action of the air. The best days for this purpose are those which are dry and cloudy, with very little sun. The object being to expel the moisture in the most gentle manner, and, at the same time, to allow the leaves to remain as soft and pliable as possible. When the sun is clear and powerful the moisture evaporates too rapidly, and the leaves are left crisp, coarse, and not in a proper state to undergo the remaining part of the process. There is no stated time for this exposure, as much depends upon the nature of the weather and the convenience of the work-people; sometimes I have seen them go on with the remaining part of the operation without at all exposing the leaves to the air.

Having in this manner got rid of a certain part of the superfluous moisture, the leaves, which are now soft and pliant, are again thrown into the drying pans, and the second heating commences. Again one individual takes his post at the furnace, and keeps up a slow and steady fire. Others resume their places at the different drying pans—one at each—and commence stirring and throwing up the leaves, so that they may all have an equal share of the fire, and none get scorched or burned. The process of drying thus goes on slowly and regularly. This part of the operation soon becomes more easy, for the leaves, as they part with their moisture, twist and curl, and consequently take up much less room than they do at first, and mix together more readily. The tea leaves being now rather too hot for the hand, a small and neat brush, made of bamboo, is used instead of the fingers for stirring them up from the bottom of the pan. By this means the leaves are scattered about on the smooth chunam-work, which forms the back of the drying pan, and, as they roll down on this heated inclined plane they dry slowly, and twist at the same time. During this operation the men and women who are employed never leave their respective stations, one keeps slowly feeding the fire, and the others continually stir the leaves. No very exact degree of temperature is attempted to be kept up, for they do not use the thermometer, but a slow and steady fire is quite sufficient; that is, the pan is made and kept so hot, that I could not place my hand upon it for a second of time. In order to get a correct idea of the time required to complete this second part of the process, I referred to my watch on different occasions, and at different tea farms, and always found that it occupied about an hour; that is, from the time the leaves were put into the pan after exposure to the air, until they were perfectly dry.

When the operation of drying is going on largely, some of the pans in the range are used for finishing the process, while others, and the hottest ones, are heating and moistening the leaves before they are squeezed and rolled. Thus a considerable number of hands can be employed at once, and the work goes on rapidly without loss of time or heat, the latter of which is of some importance in a country so ill provided with fuel.

The tea prepared in the manner which I have just described is greenish in colour, and of a most excellent quality. It is called by the Chinese in the province of Chekiang, Tsaou-tsing, or the tea which is dried in the pan, to distinguish it from the Hong-tsing, or that kind which is dried in flat bamboo baskets over a slow fire of charcoal.

This latter kind—the Hong-tsing,—is prepared in the following manner:— The first process, up to the period of rolling and exposure to the air, is exactly the same as that which I have just described, but instead of being put into the drying pan for the second heating like the Tsaou-tsing, the Hong-tsing is shaken out into flat baskets, which are placed over tubs containing charcoal and ashes. The charcoal, when ignited, burns slowly and sends out a mild and gentle heat. Indeed, the only difference between the two teas consists in the mode of firing, the latter being dried less and more slowly than the former. The Hong-tsing is not so green in colour as the Tsaou-tsing, and I believe has rarely been exported.

After the drying is completed the tea is picked, sifted, divided into different kinds and qualities, and prepared for packing. This is a part of the operation which requires great care, more especially when the tea is intended for the foreign market, as the value of the sample depends much upon the 'smallness and evenness' of the leaf, as well as upon its other good qualities. In those districts where the teas are manufactured solely for exportation, the natives are very particular in the rolling process, and hence the teas from these districts are better divided and more even—although I should doubt their being really better in quality—than they are in the eastern parts of the province of Chekiang. When they have been duly assorted, a man puts on a pair of clean cloth or straw shoes, and treads the tea firmly into baskets or boxes, and the operation is considered complete, in so far as the grower is concerned.

I have stated that the plants grown in the district of Chekiang produce green teas, but it must not be supposed that they are the green teas which are exported to England. The leaf has a much more natural colour, and has little or none of what we call the 'beautiful bloom' upon it, which is so much admired in Europe and America. There is now no doubt that all these 'blooming' green teas, which are manufactured at Canton, are dyed with Prussian blue and gypsum, to suit the taste of the foreign 'barbarians:' indeed, the process may be seen any day, during the season, by those who will give themselves the trouble to seek after it. It is very likely that the same ingredients are also used in dying the northern green teas for the foreign market; of this, however, I am not quite certain. There is a vegetable dye obtained from Isatis indigotica much used in the northern districts, and called Tein-ching, and it is not unlikely that it may be the substance which is employed. [For Forster's later discoveries in the dyeing of green tea, see here.]

The Chinese never use these dyed teas themselves, and I certainly think their taste in this respect is more correct than ours. It is not to be supposed that the dye used can produce any very bad effects upon the consumer, for, had this been the case, it would have been discovered before now; but if entirely harmless or inert, its being so must be ascribed to the very small quantity which is employed in the manufacture.

When the teas are ready for sale, the large tea merchants or their servants come out from the principal towns of the district, and take up their quarters in all the little inns or eating houses, which are very numerous in every part of the country. They also bring coolies loaded with the copper coin of the country, with which they pay for their purchases. As soon as the merchants are known to have arrived in the district, the tea growers bring their produce for inspection and sale. These little farmers or their labourers may now be seen hastening along the different roads, each with two baskets or chests slung across his shoulder on his bamboo pole. When they arrive at the merchant's abiding place the baskets are opened before him, and the quality of the tea inspected. If he is pleased with its appearance and smell, and the parties agree as to the price, the tea is weighed, the money paid down, and the grower gets his strings of copper money slung over his shoulder, and returns to his farm. But should the price offered appear too low, the baskets are immediately shouldered with the greatest apparent independence, and carried away to some opposition merchant. It, however, sometimes happens that a merchant makes a contract with some of the tea growers before the season commences, in which case the price is arranged in the usual way, and generally a part paid in advance. This, I understand, is frequently the case at Canton when a foreign resident wishes to secure any particular kind of tea.

After the teas are bought up in the district where they are grown, they are conveyed to the most convenient town, where they are assorted and properly packed for the European and American markets. Such is the system of green tea culture and manufacture which came under my own observation in the province of Chekiang.

The black tea districts of Fokien, which I visited, are managed in the same way as those of Chekiang.

I have already said that the species of plant which produces the black teas near Foo-chow is the very same as that found in the green tea districts of the north. Being further south, and of course in a hotter climate, the tea plant of Fokien is generally grown at a high elevation amongst the hills. At the risk of some little repetition I will insert an account of my visit to the tea hills of Fokien.

Every cottager, or small farmer, has two or three patches of tea shrubs growing on the hill sides, which are generally planted and kept in order by the members of his own family. When the gathering season arrives, the cottage-doors are locked, and all proceed to the hills with their baskets and commence plucking the leaves. This business, of course, only goes on during fine days when the leaves are dry.

The first gathering takes place just when the leaf-buds begin to unfold themselves in early spring. This tea is scarce and of a very superior quality, being, in fact, the same, or nearly the same, as that which is made from the young leaves in the green -tea district. The second gathering produces the principal crop of the season; the third crop is coarse and inferior.

When the leaves are brought home from the hills, they are first of all emptied out into large flat bamboo sieves, and, providing the day is not too bright, are exposed in the open air to dry off any superfluous moisture. When this moisture has evaporated, convenient portions of the leaves are brought in and thrown into a round flat iron pan, such as the Chinese use for boiling their rice, and are exposed to the heat of a gentle fire which is lighted below them. As soon as this heat reaches them, they give out a large quantity of moisture with a crackling noise, and they soon become soft and pliant. The person who attends to them stirs them about with his hands, and in about five minutes takes them out and puts in a fresh supply. The heated leaves are emptied out on a large round and flat bamboo sieve, which is placed upon a table at a convenient height from the ground, and the process of rolling commences. Three or four persons take a portion of the heated leaves and begin to squeeze and roll them in the manner which I have already described. This goes on for a minute or two, when each person takes his portion and examines the effects which have already been produced; it is then shaken well out upon the table, after which it is gathered up and the operation of rolling and squeezing goes on as before. This is repeated three or four times, and then the whole is shaken well out, on another large flat bamboo sieve, in such a manner as to spread it thinly upon it.

Up to this stage of the process all the leaves have been subjected to the same treatment. But the tea in this district is now divided into two classes, each of which is treated in a peculiar manner. They are called in the language of the district, Luk-cha and Hong-cha. The former seems to be a kind of mixture of black and green, and I should imagine it is only made for the use of the natives themselves; the latter is our common black tea.

The Luk-cha is prepared in the following manner:— The leaves, after being rolled and squeezed, are shaken out thinly and exposed to the air to dry. Great care is taken not to expose them in this state to much bright sunshine, and hence a fine dry day when the sun is partially obscured by thin clouds is always preferred for this part of the operation. After being exposed for an hour or two, or even longer, as the case may be, for this depends upon a variety of circumstances, such as the dryness of the air, or the convenience of the workpeople, they are brought within doors, and the drying process commences. The flat rice-pan, in which they were first heated, is so constructed that it can be taken out at the pleasure of the cottager. It is now removed, and a bamboo sieve, exactly the same size, is put into its place, and filled with the leaves. A very slow and steady fire of wood or charcoal is now kept up, and the remains of the moisture in the leaves is thus gradually and slowly evaporated. After a few minutes the sieve is lifted out and placed in one of a larger size with a closer bottom. The leaves are then well shaken up and turned over, and any of the smaller tea which falls through the open sieve, during the operation, is thus collected in the under one and carefully saved. Both sieves are now placed over the flue, and the leaves carefully watched and turned frequently, for about an hour, when the tea is considered properly fired. Sometimes, if the day is fine, it is exposed a little while to the sun before it is packed away.

The Hong-cha, or our common black tea, is prepared rather differently. In the first place the natives seem more particular in the rolling process, especially when it is for the foreign market, although the operation is performed much in the same way. After heating and rolling, the leaves are shaken out on large screens, and subjected to the action of the open air; the natives in this, as in all other cases, taking care not to expose them to a bright and burning sun. This is a most important part of the manufacture. The black tea is left in this state sometimes for two or three days before it is fired, which, doubtless, is one cause why the colour of this tea is so much darker than those kinds which are prepared from the same plants and quickly dried.

Fig.4 Chloranthus inconspicuus, from Charles Louis L'Héritier de Brutelle, Sertum Anglicum, Plantae rariores quae in hortis juxta Londinum, Paris, 1788, Plate 2.

After being exposed for a sufficient length of time to the action of the air, the leaves are taken in for the purpose of firing. Instead, however, of being heated in baskets, like the other kind, this is thrown at once into the pan. An old and experienced person takes his place at the furnace, and keeps up a slow and steady fire, while it is the duty of the younger branches of the family to keep the leaves in the pan in continual motion and prevent them from being burned. This is done by means of little hand-brushes made from the prolific bamboo, the outer flinty part being split for this purpose. The tea prepared in this manner soon becomes of a dark colour, and is quite different in appearance from the Luk-cha. After it has been sufficiently dried, it has, of course, to undergo the other operations of sifting, picking, and dividing, before it is fit to be packed up for the foreign market.

From this it appears, that the black tea is rendered darker in colour, first by being longer exposed to the air in a soft and moist state; and secondly, by being subjected to a greater degree of fire-heat. With regard to the green teas, there can be no doubt that those used by the Chinese themselves are of the genuine colour which they acquire in the drying; and that those 'blooming' kinds, prepared to suit our depraved tastes, are, one and all, dyed. Moreover, in conclusion, I may repeat, what I have already proved, that the black and green teas of the north are produced from the same species, the Thea viridis, and that the true Canton teas are manufactured from the leaves of the Thea bohea. It therefore follows that the black teas can be, and, in fact, are made from both species; and with regard to the green, as it is the result of a dye, the Chinese, I doubt not, could substitute for that colour either red or yellow, should our tastes change and lead us to prefer more glaring tints!

There are several different kinds of scented flowers, which are grown in particular districts, for the purpose of mixing with and perfuming the tea. Amongst these I may mention the following:— Olea fragrans, Chloranthus inconspicuus, Aglaia odorata, &c. I believe these flowers are dried by themselves, and afterwards mixed with the teas.*

* In order to give the reader some idea of the different sorts of teas manufactured for the European and American markets, I cannot do better than quote some excellent remarks on this subject by Sir John Francis Davis, in his work, 'The Chinese:'[1]—

As tea has always held so principal a place in our intercourse with China, it requires some particular consideration as an article of commerce. We have seen before, that the fineness and dearness of tea are determined by the tenderness and smallness of the leaf when picked. The various descriptions of the Black diminish in quality and value as they are gathered later in the season, until they reach the lowest kind, called by us Bohea, and by the Chinese (Ta-cha), 'large tea,' on account of the maturity and size of the leaves. The early leaf-buds in spring, being covered with a white silky down, are gathered to make Pekoe, which is a corruption of the Canton name Pak-ho, 'white down.' A few days' longer growth produce what is here styled 'black-leaved pekoe.' The more fleshy and matured leaves constitute Souchong; as they grow larger and coarser they form Congou; and the last and latest picking is Bohea. The tea-farmers, who are small proprietors or cultivators, give the tea a rough preparation, and then take it to the contractors, whose business it is to adapt its farther preparation to the existing nature of the demand. The different kinds of tea may be considered in the ascending scale of their value.


1. Bohea, which in England is the name of a quality, has been already stated to be, in China, the name of a district where various kinds of black tea are produced. The coarse leaf brought under that name to this country is distinguished by containing a larger proportion of the woody fibre than other teas; its infusion is of a darker colour, and as it has been more subjected to the action of fire, it keeps a longer time without becoming musty than the finer sorts. Two kinds of Bohea are brought from China: the lowest of these is manufactured on the spot, and therefore called 'Canton Bohea,' being a mixture of refuse Congou with a coarse tea called Woping, the growth of the province. The better kind of Bohea comes from the district of that name in Fokien, and, having been of late esteemed equally with the lower Congou teas, has been packed in the same square chests, while the whole Bohea package is of an oblong shape.

2. Congou, the next higher kind, is named from a corruption of the Chinese Koong foo, 'labour or assiduity.' It formed for many years the bulk of the East India Company's cargoes; but the quality gradually fell off', in consequence of the partial abandonment of the old system of annual contracts, by which the Chinese merchants were assured of a remunerating price for the better sorts. The consumption of Bohea in this country has of late years increased, to the diminution of Congou, and the standard of the latter has been considerably lowered. A particular variety, called Campoi, is so called from a corruption of the original name Kien-peoy, 'selection—choice; ' but it has ceased to be prized in this country, from the absence of strength—a characteristic which is stated to be generally esteemed beyond delicacy of flavour.

3. Souchong (Seaou-choong, 'small, or scarce sort') is the finest of the stronger black teas, with a leaf that is generally entire and curly, but more young than in the coarser kinds. What is called 'Padre Souchong' is packed in separate paper bundles, of about half a pound each, and is so fine as to be used almost exclusively for presents. The probability is that its use in that way by the Catholic missionaries first gave rise to the name. The finest kinds of Souchong are sometimes scented with the flowers of the Chloranthus inconspicuus, and Gardenia florida; and they cannot be obtained, even among the Chinese, except at dear prices. A highly-crisped and curled leaf called Sonchi, has lately grown into disrepute and been much disused, in consequence of being often found to contain a ferruginous dust, which was probably not intended as a fraud, but arose from the nature of the ground, where the tea had been carelessly and dirtily packed.

4. Pekoe being composed mainly of the young spring-buds, the gathering of these must, of course, be injurious in some degree to the future produce of the shrub, and this description of tea is accordingly both dear and small in quantity. With a view to preserving the fineness of flavour, the application of heat is very limited in drying the leaves, and hence it is that Pekoe is more liable to injury from keeping than any other sort of tea. There is a species of Pekoe made in the Green-tea country from the young buds, in like manner with the black kind; but it is so little fired that the least damp spoils it; and for this reason, as well as on account of its scarcity and high price, the Hyson-pekoe, as some call it, has never been brought to England. The mandarins send it in very small canisters to each other, or to their friends, as presents, under the name of Loong-tsing, which is probably the name of the district where the tea is made.

Green teas may generally be divided into five denominations, which are— 1. Twankey; 2. Hyson-skin; 3. Hyson; 4. Gunpowder; 5. Young Hyson. Twankey tea has always formed the bulk of the green teas imported into this country, being used by the retailers to mix with the finer kinds. The leaf is older, and not so much twisted and rolled as in the dearer descriptions: there is altogether less care and trouble bestowed on its preparation. It is, in fact, the Bohea of green teas; and the quantity of it brought to England has fully equalled three-fourths of the whole importation of green. 'Hyson-skin' is so named from the original Chinese term, in which connection the skin means the refuse, or inferior portion of anything; in allusion, perhaps, to the hide of an animal, or the rind of fruit. In preparing the fine tea called Hyson, all those leaves that are of a coarser, yellower, and less twisted or rolled appearance, are set apart and sold as the refuse or 'skin-tea,' at a much inferior price. The whole quantity, therefore, depends on, and hears a proportion to, the whole quantity of Hyson manufactured, but seldom exceeds two or three thousand chests in all.

The word Hyson is corrupted from the Chinese name, which signifies 'flourishing spring,' this fine sort of tea being of course gathered in the early part of the season. Every separate leaf is twisted and rolled by hand, and it is on account of the extreme care and labour required in its preparation that the best Hyson tea is so difficult to procure, and so expensive. By way of keeping up its quality, the East India Company used to give a premium for the two best lots annually presented to them for selection; and the tea-merchants were stimulated to exertion, as much by the credit of the thing, as by the actual gain in price. Gunpowder, as it is called, is nothing but a more carefully picked Hyson, consisting of the best rolled and roundest leaves, which give it that granular appearance whence it derives its name. For a similar reason the Chinese call it Choocha, 'pearl-tea.' Young Hyson, until it was spoiled by the large demand of the Americans, was a genuine, delicate young leaf, called in the original language Yu-tsien, 'before the rains,' because gathered in the early spring. As it could not be fairly produced in any large quantities, the call for it on the part of the Americans was answered by cutting up and sifting other green tea through sieves of a certain size; and, as the Company's inspectors detected the imposture, it formed no portion of their London importations. But the abuse became still worse of late (as we shall presently see), for the coarsest black tea-leaves have been cut up, and then coloured with a preparation resembling the hue of green teas.

The remission of the tea duties in the United States occasioned, in the years 1832 and 1833, a demand for green teas at Canton, which could not be supplied by the arrivals from the provinces. The Americans, however, were obliged to sail with cargoes of green teas within the favourable season; they were determined to have these teas; and the Chinese were determined they should be supplied. Certain rumours being afloat concerning the manufacture of green tea from old black leaves, the writer of this became curious to ascertain the truth, and with some difficulty persuaded a Hong merchant to conduct him, accompanied by one of the inspectors, to the place where the operation was carried on. Upon reaching the opposite side of the river, and entering one of these laboratories of factitious Hyson, the parties were witnesses to a strange scene.

In the first place, large quantities of black tea, which had been damaged in consequence of the floods of the previous autumn, were drying in baskets with sieve bottoms, placed over pans of charcoal. The dried leaves were then transferred in portions of a few pounds each to a great number of cast-iron pans, imbedded in chunam or mortar, over furnaces. At each pan stood a workman, stirring the tea rapidly round with his hand, having previously added a small quantity of turmeric in powder, which of course gave the leaves a yellowish or orange tinge; but they were still to be made green. For this purpose some lumps of a fine blue were produced, together with, a white substance in powder, which from the names given to them by the workmen, as well as their appearance, were known at once to be prussian blue and gypsum. These were triturated finely together with a small pestle, in such proportion as reduced the dark colour of the blue to a light shade; and a quantity equal to a small tea-spoonful of the powder being added to the yellowish leaves, these were stirred as before over the fire, until the tea had taken the fine bloom colour of Hyson, with very much the same scent. To prevent all possibility of error regarding the substances employed, samples of them, together with specimens of the leaves in each stage of the process, were carried away from the place.

The tea was then handed in small quantities, on broad shallow baskets, to a number of women and children, who carefully picked out the stalks, and coarse or uncurled leaves; and, when this had been done, it was passed in succession through sieves of different degrees of fineness. The first sifting produced what was sold as Hyson-skin, and the last bore the name of Young Hyson. As the party did not see the intermediate step between the picking and sifting, there is reason to believe that the size of the leaves was first reduced by chopping or cutting with shears. If the tea has not highly deleterious qualities, it can only be in consequence of the colouring matter—Prussiate of iron, and sulphate of lime—existing in a small proportion to the leaf [2]; and the Chinese seemed quite conscious of the real character of the occupation in which they were engaged; for, on attempting to enter several other places where the same process was going on, the doors were speedily closed upon the party. Indeed, had it not been for the influence of the Hongist who conducted them, there would have been little chance of their seeing as much as they did.



Robert Fortune, Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China, London: John Murray, 1847, pp.197-224.


[1] Charles Knight and Co., Ludgate Street, 1840.

[2] The turmeric and gypsum are perfectly innocuous; but the Prussian blue, being a combination of prussic acid with iron, is a poison.


Tea Powerpoint.ppt 
This power point presentation has been developed for teachers in conjunction with the exhibition Steeped in History: The Art of Tea, organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA.
This presentation and curricular resources are made possible by generous support from the UCLA Asia Institute.