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Publisher's Summary

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 a clandestine 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 the remarkable account of Fortune's journeys into China - a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.

Disguised in Mandarin robes, Fortune ventured deep into the country, confronting pirates, hostile climate, and his own untrustworthy men as he made his way to the epicenter of tea production, the remote Wu Yi Shan hills. One of the most daring acts of corporate espionage in history, Fortune's pursuit of China's ancient secret makes for a classic 19th-century adventure tale, one in which the fate of empires hinges on the feats of one extraordinary man.

©2010 Sarah Rose (P)2010 Tantor

Critic Reviews

“A delicious brew of information on the history of tea cultivation and consumption in the Western world.... A remarkably riveting tale.” (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

One author who writes well but narrates terribly!

Sorry, but I agree with many of the other reviewers on this one. And this is the first review I've written for Audible, even though I've been a happy customer for nearly 7 years!

This author's narration style really annoyed me. Her chirpy intonation made me feel about 5 years old. Additionally, there were several words she did not know how to pronounce, and this grated on my ears. I do give her credit for attempting many Chinese names and phrases, but I have no way of knowing if she was producing them correctly or not.

I love tea and the history and chemistry and artistry of tea, so I am sticking with this book for now. I'm about 2/3 of the way through, but it has taken me several weeks to get this far. I keep coming back to it, determined to try and finish, and then I can't take it any more and I listen to music or another book for a while. I love the depth of history and research and details, but in this audio version, the narration overshadows all.

Was there no one else who could perform this book with distinction?

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Interesting story; poor narration.

The book itself is interesting, and I would like to read it in book form. However, the author's narration seriously detracts from the listening experience. It frequently sounds as though she is trying to keep the attention of a class of eighth graders, and the occasional mispronounced word is truly annoying.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard

Ms Rose wrote a fascinating, well-researched book. However, this is an audiobook, and listening to Ms Rose read the book is akin to sitting in a pre-K classroom. At first you're distracted by the colorful artwork, then gradually you want to sharpen a pencil and stick yourself in the eye to get out.

A British male voice would have enhanced the story, and elevated Ms Rose in the process. Sadly, her voice both distracts and irritates this listener. I would recommend reading the book yourself.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Miles
  • Washington, DC, USA
  • 05-13-10

First Rule of Audio Books

I so wanted to like this book -- and maybe it is as good as I wanted it to be. But I just couldn't make it through more than 45 minutes because of the narration. It's grating and quirky and unpleasant to listen to. I have learned the First Rule of Audiobooks - BEWARE OF BOOKS NARRATED BY THE AUTHOR. I have also developed a new appreciation of good narrators.
Please check the preview before buying - I wish I had.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Margaret
  • Spencer, NY, United States
  • 04-05-10

classic time in horticultural exploration

The author provides a fine window into a wonderful time in horticultural exploration at the same time that she provides cultural and political contexts. I found the book fascinating. Unfortunately, I thought the author should not have narrated the book. While her narration is professional, I do not feel it suited the story.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Bertram, TX, United States
  • 09-24-10

Couldn't finish it

I really wanted to hear this book, but gave it up 1/3 of the way through because the narrator (the author) is 1) has a hard-to-listen-to voice and 2) is inappropriately dramatic. Read this book. Do NOT listen to it.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Eliz
  • Riverside, CA, United States
  • 02-23-12

Hope they re-record this.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

If Audible re-recorded this with a trained narrator, it could have been a 4 or 5. Then again, I couldn't stand listening long enough to evaluate the content.

Has For All the Tea in China turned you off from other books in this genre?

I' m still very interested in books about food in history.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Sarah Rose?

A trained actor; a woman with a British, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Pakistani flavored dialect of English.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great subject, awful recording

I found this to be a very interesting and informative subject which I was highly motivated to learn about....but that wasn't enough to get me through the awful narration. The first audiobook I've never been able to finish. I would cringe every time I'd listen! Ugghhhh...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ben
  • BELLINGHAM, WA, United States
  • 05-16-12

Might-tea good!

Sorry about the pun, but really the book is mighty good. Backed by some impressive and detailed research this book gives a fascinating history of tea with the larger context of the role it played in the East India Tea Company, the British Empire, China and India.

On one hand it is a simple drink, much beloved around the world. But on the other it was a force that changed the course of empires, the results of which we still experience today. I never knew the lengths to which the English went to steal the secrets of tea cultivation and production from the Chinese, and the struggles to get it to grow in India.

The entire history is told with great skill and the book is a pleasure to listen to. Well, almost. I would read anything that Sarah Rose wrote because she is exceptionally skilled, but her talents are not with narration. It isn't bad, and doesn't detract from the pleasure of this book, but a professional narration would have made this work even more exceptional.

Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Diane
  • BLACKSBURG, VA, United States
  • 05-02-10

Needs a different narrator

Because authors sometimes write in a style that is similar to the way they talk/speak, I can imagine this trait would also make them the best choices to read their own books. Not this time.

I don't know if she's just too enamored of her work, or if she usually reads to 6-year olds, but Sarah Rose's narration is frustratingly bad. She seems determined to keep the reader in a constant state of WOW!, and the material doesn't lend itself to that sort of narration. She gives way too many words way too much emphasis, and most of the time it feels as though she's emphasizing the wrong words. Rose reads with some very strange phrasing -- are there really that many commas in the original work and are they really in those places? Her inflection goes up when it should go down and vice versa. The substance of the book is quite interesting, but the narration really gets in the way. I find myself thinking more about how I would read a particular sentence than I do about this history of tea.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful