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  • Writer's pictureHolly Harper

Robert Fortune Broke the Commodity Monopoly on Tea

Robert Fortune, he was a tea thief, scientist, botanist and a cunning man in the art of Corporate Espionage that broke the commodity monopoly on tea.

Daring and adventuresome, he was the son of a Scottish farm worker with no higher education but an acquired wealth of practical knowledge. He was hired by the British Horticulturist Society, in the mid 1800's to penetrate the wilds of deep China in search of Tea Seeds, Tea Plants. His mission also required him to learn about the closely guarded secret of cultivation, growing and manufacturing of tea. Whilst on his Sojourn to learn these secrets, he wore Mandarin attire and even a "Queue" (fake braided ponytail).

Ultimate goal of the British Horticulturist Society.......Bring Tea seeds & Tea Plants from China to be grown in India.

His quest took him to places a Westerner had never gone before.

Robert Fortune credited with breaking the Commodity monopoly on tea
Robert Fortune middle

He was welcomed and trusted by an overseer of a tea facility and learned much about Chinese Tea, including plucking, drying, rolling & fermentation processes. Disguised as a wealthy Chinese Industrialist, he was able to able to garner the trust necessary to be able to acquire the much desired tea seeds and tea plants. All the tea in China could now be grown in India too, thus, Robert Fortune broke the commodity monopoly on tea.


Hanging on the wall of the factory were these words

Best Tea Must Have Creases like the leather boot of a Tartar Horseman

Curl like Dewlap of a Mighty Bullock Unfold like Mist Rising from a Ravine

Gleam like a Lake touched by a Zephyr

Be Wet & Soft like Earth Newly Swept with Rain





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