Robert Fortune, a remarkable Scotsman botanist and adventurer, made an extraordinary journey that would change tea consumption history. In 1848, he embarked on a daring mission to steal the secrets of manufacturing and horticulture processes from Chinese tea masters - something unheard-of as they forbid China at the time for foreigners! To achieve this remarkable feat, Mr. Fortune disguised himself while traveling through terrain like Wuyishan hills or the Yellow Mountain region. Today we can have various types of teas around the world thanks to his heroic adventure, which reads more like fiction than reality!
The First Trip To China
Robert Fortune, a rather stern Scotsman with his head shaven and hair in a ponytail, set out on an adventurous four-month voyage that led him to the unknown lands of Hong Kong. But this exploration was no leisurely endeavor - he sought to fill his Wardian cases with precious plants from distant China. From there onwards began many misadventures: raging mobs sprouting xenophobia; brutal storms smothering the Yellow Sea's coastlines; pirates lurking around the Yangtze River... but through it, all Fortune persevered! His enthralling account of these journeys is brought alive forever in "Three Years In China"!
With remarkable dedication, Robert Fortune achieved fluency in the local tongue as he journeyed throughout China. His success enabled him to don traditional clothes and remain undetected within the sea of faces among whom he blended seamlessly. Thus, equipped with a new disguise and skillful disposition, Robert had access to even Wuhsien - an otherwise prohibited city - for three years during his first mission abroad. After that, many items were sent back home! After landing safely in London in May 1846, all these travels were documented under "Three Years' Wanderings in the Northern Province of China"–inspired by our very own intrepid explorer - Robert Fortune himself!
William Fortune's life story captivated the attention of 19th-century audiences and made a lasting impression on one particular company. The East India Trading Company, renowned as one of the leading multinational corporations in history, reached out to him with an offer—to embark upon yet another expedition across China, but this time for something rather sinister, smuggling tea away from its rightful owners!
His Second Trip to China
By the mid-19th century, tea had become integral to life in Britain and across Europe. But to sustain its grip on their culture, the British Empire set out to establish India as a significant producer with help from China, where tea originated - but lacking essential elements for mass production. Enter Robert Fortune, who sailed into Shanghai harbor wearing European clothes only to emerge publicly some hours later dressed in Chinese attire, complete with a long dark braid down his neck! His daring mission? To try and smuggle away secrets of growing premium quality teas back home.
Robert Fortune was an energetic Scotsman who stood head and shoulders above the typical Chinese person. He had a mission to undertake, requiring him to venture deep into mysterious forbidden parts of China at a time when relations between Beijing and the Western world were strained. To avoid detection on his two journeys, he disguised himself as a native by wearing traditional clothing, speaking in Mandarin, and even growing long plaits in his hair. This look convinced some onlookers that he wasn't human but instead their lord from beyond the Great Wall!
A Visit to a Tea Factory
Robert Fortune, escorted by his faithful servant Wang, ventured to a renowned green tea factory. After an earnest plea from the remarkable Wang at its gates, Robert was permitted entry; this marked the start of an awe-inspiring experience! Once inside - past crumbling grey stucco walls - they discovered courtyards and bustling workrooms where people were brewing up what is believed to be one of China’s most prized exports: green tea. The warm air filled with delightful aromas left them in no doubt that their journey had been worth it as they stepped closer to uncovering secrets behind exquisite teas shipped all over Asia and beyond via Canton traders and Shanghai markets alike.
For two thousand years, tea had been a staple of many cultures - but few people in Britain's colonies knew how it was made. Then Robert Fortune set out to unravel the mysteries behind its production and end Europe's dependence on Chinese manufacturers. His voyages toward understanding this cultural drink symbolized his dedication to science-based research and ushered in an era where scientific exploration could change our view of the world forever.
During his time in China, Robert Fortune was tasked with a mission to learn the secrets of tea-making. He studied diligently - from harvesting, fermenting, and drying plants for black tea to brewing it as per secret instructions, which the East India Company closely guarded. His careful efforts paid off when he later sent some of the best nursery stock back to Indian Tea Gardens! With so much knowledge gained on this journey into Chinese culture and tradition – indeed, fortune smiled upon him that day...
Fortune wandered into a silent courtyard where the only sound was drying tea. At its entrance, inspiring words from Cha-Ching hung on the wall - an ode to this prized commodity by Lu Yu himself! Inside lay sizable woven rattan plates holding freshly harvested leaves which were being cooked up slowly and steadily in direct sunlight for one or two hours until they reached perfection. It seemed like no passing soul dared disturb them while they were cured; silence reigned over all as if it were some hallowed rituals steeped in tradition.
On a sweltering day, the leaves had dried out in the sun's intense rays. They were then taken to a sweltering room and put into gargantuan iron pans over coal-fired furnaces. With constant stirring from determined men, they soon became warm and wet as their cell walls were broken down – like vegetables cooked at high temperatures! After being tossed on tables, four or five workers vigorously rolled them back and forth across bamboo rollers until all of their essential oils seeped onto its surface forming pools of emerald liquid.
With utmost care, the workers diligently separated leaves from unwanted stem fragments and stones that littered an otherwise pristine factory floor. Even further effort was taken to ensure purity by searching for any unwelcome inhabitants such as insects - a gesture of respect towards all Chinese tea drinkers who traditionally discard their first pot to avoid imbibing contaminants. This age-old practice has created quite a saying among connoisseurs: "The first cup is for your enemies.”
The Introduction of the Tea Making Process to the World
Fortune's ingenious plan succeeded in transporting Chinese green tea dyes back to England for display at the momentous Great Exhibition of 1851. This historical event, hosted by Britain and made world-renowned through the Crystal Palace, revealed their technological advancements and showcased China's toxic dye crisis on a global stage - prompting personal insight into science while defending British commodities. Through his actions, Fortune simultaneously exposed illegal behavior from China and ignited admiration toward beloved English teatime culture!
In the mid-1800s, a determined individual made it his mission to introduce tea farming and production in India. He managed an impressive feat - transporting over 20,000 plants, seedlings, and 8 Chinese laborers into the formidable Himalayas! His labors resulted in an entire industry being formed; ever since then, countless cups of Indian tea have been enjoyed by people from all corners of the world.
Robert Fortune's bold tea mission left an incredible legacy behind. After conquering the secret formula of green and black teas in 1851, he continued exploring East Asia - twice visiting China (1853-56 & 1858-59) and journeying through Japan (1860–62). As a result, Fortune introduced more than 120 exotic plant species into Western gardens, permanently altering our relationship with nature forever!