British spy smuggled famous Darjeeling Tea from China in 1848 – Malcolm Ferris-Lay

Darjeeling Tea  history – British tea expert Malcolm Ferris-Lay narrated a history of intrigue and industrial espionage in 1848 when the East India Co. sent a spy to China to smuggle out tea plants. These were later planted in Darjeeling and came to be globally famous as the unique “Darjeeling Tea”.

Darjeeling -Tea Planter with Tea Pickers, Steinthal Tea Estate 1930s
Tea Planter with Tea Pickers, Steinthal Tea Estate 1930s

Since 1664, East India Co did a flourishing trade in exporting opium to China and bringing in shipments of tea to India. In the 1680’s, a pound (454 gm) of tea cost $6 which at current exchange rate would mean £ 1068 for a pound of tea. Robert Fortune, a daring young man born in Scotland, was roped in by the British in May 1848 to collect information from China on tea industry.

Robert Fortune disguised himself as a Chinese, with a shaven head and pigtails, from a distant province, learned Mandarin and secretly entered Fujian and Jiangsu, which were forbidden to foreigners. He managed to collect 20,000 plants and seedlings and ship out to Kolkata by sea. The knowledge gained by Fortune and the seedlings planted in Tukvar in Darjeeling were instrumental in setting up the remarkable Darjeeling tea brand.

According to an expert in ITA, the product is identical to the tea grown in China with the difference that Chinese green tea is steamed and dried. The liquor is greenish and yellowish and light. On the other hand, Darjeeling tea is fermented and roasted. It has a brown-ochre colour and smoky flavor.

Ref. : THE ASSAM REVIEW & TEA NEWS, 26TH Feb. 2014
Vo. : 102 No. 12
[Courtesy: Sangam Rai]

Source : DT

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