For All The Tea In China, by Sarah Rose.
In 1848, the British East India Company, having lost its monopoly on the tea trade, engaged Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, to make an illicit trip into the interior of China (territory forbidden to foreigners) to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. For All the Tea in China is a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.
Robert Fortune was born in 1812, and died in 1880. His travels resulted in the introduction to Europe of many new, exotic, beautiful flowers and plants. His most famous accomplishment was the successful transportation of tea from China to India in 1848. Not only was Fortune’s purchase of tea plants forbidden by the Chinese government of the time, but his travels were also beyond the allowable day’s journey from the European treaty ports.
After reading this book, I was amazed that I had never before heard of Robert Fortune. Without his (rather sneaky and dishonest) deeds the rest of the world may never have had access to tea. In her wonderful book, Sarah Rose has rescued the aptly named Robert Fortune from the footnotes of Victorian obscurity and written an engrossing story explaining one of the greatest heists in history.
I highly recommend adding this book to your book list.