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Summer 2021 – Robert Fortune, The Botanical Explorer who changed the Tea World, Part I

On a sunlit afternoon in early May 1848, two gentlemen strolled through the 175-year-old Chelsea Physic Garden, an apothecary garden in London, England, and admired the extensive collection of plants cultivated there for medicinal use. The older man was an Indian-born British botanist, John Forbes Royle, a Professor of Materia Medica at Kings College and former employee of the East India Company. The younger was the 35-year-old curator of the garden, Robert Fortune, who was hired two years before to steward “the most complete collection of plants suitable for botanical instruction…their skillful cultivation is to be the subject of his assiduous attention.” Royle had a proposition for Fortune. With his previous experience as a plant collector in China, would he be interested in traveling back to China, on behalf of the East India Company, to collect tea seeds and plants for cultivation in the Himalayan mountains of India? His answer changed the world. (read the full article on page 48 of our Summer Quarterly)

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Darjeeling's Royal Flush - Wine Spectator

Upton’s tea procurer Nicole Patterson, 31,selects standout lots from hundreds of samples every year. Patterson developed a passion for tea while working at the now-closed Tealuxe in Harvard Square; five years ago, she transferred her expertise to Upton. She was planning to visit the Darjeeling district of India in March 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, forcing her to cancel the trip. At press time, the country’s tea production was shut down due to the pandemic, meaning that first flush Darjeeling may be hard to come by for the foreseeable future. Click Here to read the rest of the article.

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“Reversals of Fortune in the Tea Industry” series