On-line homework assignments will be assigned on Tuesdays and will be due the following Tuesday.  Students will have one week to finish their homework assignments.  Homework can be accessed from any device that is connected to the Internet, i.e. cell phone, tablet, computer, etc. 

***NOTE***The reading selections can also be found on this web page if you have trouble accessing them through the Skyward page. 

Read the short selection,
"Spying on the Secrets of Tea" 

BEFORE you answer the questions 1-6


Read the short selection 

"The United Nations"

BEFORE you answer the questions 7-12

 Due TUESDAY, January 22, 2019!!

Spying on the Secrets of Tea

1)      Tea is often considered an essentially British drink, though it wasn’t always that way.  The tea plantations of China had been producing tea for centuries before the British discovered it.  But once the British starting drinking tea, their nearly unlimited appetite for Chinese tea formed a global web of trade.  It wasn’t long, though, before the British began trying to produce their own tea in the mild climates of India, then part of the British Empire.  But cutting China out of the process, they could produce tea at a far lower cost.

          In the 1830s and 1840s, the British East India Company experimented with growing varieties of tea found in the regions of India, such as Assam and Ceylon.  They had expected that tea would be easy to produce.  Upon inspection, the tea leaves imported from China appeated to be simply the dried leaves of the tea plant.  But their first attempts at tea were undrinkable.  What they tasted was watery, plantlike, and utterly dunappetizing – a far cry from the delicate, aromatic brew that came from the Chinese leaves.

          The British tried asking Chinese tea authorities to share their methods of tea production.  But the Chinese refused, knowing it would cause them to lose their global monopoly on tea.  But rather than try to discover how to produce tea independently, the leaders of the British East India Company took a dishonest shortcut.  They sent a man by the name of Robert Fortune to China as a spy.  His job was to steal the secrets of Chinese tea.

A Spy on a Mission

            Fortune was a Scotsman, so he had to disguise himself to travel undercover to regions of China where no foreigners were permitted.  He traveled with a Chinese translator named Wang.  Dressed as a mandarin, Fortune visited a green tea plantation.  Wang somehow convinced the superintendent there that Fortune was an official who had come to inspect the plantation.

5)          Fortune and Wang entered the area where tea was processed before being exported.  As he followed the superintendent, he secretly collected a few samples of the tea plants.  He would later bring them to India to combine with the varieties in India’s tea-growing regions.  But his most important task was to learn the process of preparing the tea.  Fortune kept his eyes wide open and immediately began taking notes.


A Secret Process

          The first stop on Fortune’s tour was a large courtyard where fresh tea leaves had been set out to dry.  The leaves had been picked from the top of the plant by a small army of workers in the fields.  To Fortune’s surprise, the “green” tea leaves were the same as “black” tea leaves.  The main difference was that leaves for green tea were dried for a shorter time.   Even the British Linnaean Society, experienced in classifying types of plants, had assumed that the leaves for black tea and the leaves for green tea came from entirely different plants. 

          Fortune was next taken to a furnace room, where the leaves were heated in a large iron pan.  The heat helped draw out the sap in the leaves.  When the leaves were moist, they were poured out onto a table, where a handful of people wrung them out with bamboo rollers.  Fortune later compared their specialized movements to “a baker working and rolling his dough.”

          The tea leaves, now curled and tiny, were heated one last time.  Then, they were sorted by quality and inspected for contaminants such as insects, grit, or pieces of stem.  Based on his observations, Fortune felt hopeful about the possibilities of tea production in India.  Though they might not be able to rival the Chinese tea in popularity, they now had knowledge of the same process.  Surely they would at least be able to compete. 

A Danger in Dyes

          Then, Fortune asked a question through his interpreter.  He wanted to know why all the workers in the later stages of tea production had blue on their fingers.  He had been wondering if Chinese manufacturers were dyeing their tea to make it more appealing.  As it turned out, Fortune was correct.  The blue color came from a pigment called Prussian blue – a chemical that contains trace amounts of poisonous cyanide.

10)    Fortune also asked about a strange smell in one area of the plant – like the scent of rotten eggs.  The answer gave him another color the Chinese were using to dye the tea.  It was a yellow substance, gypsum, commonly used in plaster.  The smell had been from the release of sulfur as the gypsum has heated.  Gypsum was more hazardous than Prussian blue; even in small amounts, it could irritate the eyes, throat, and lungs. 

          Alarmed, Fortune asked his guide why the manufacturers were using these chemicals in the teas.  The answer was simple:  the blue and yellow chemicals combined were used to brighten the original green of the tea, and it brought in a much higher price from British buyers.  Fortune secretly took some of the dyes to bring back as well.  He would need proof to expose this contamination in green tea from China.  But his efforts would prove worthwhile as a way to give the new Indian tea plantations an advantage in the tea trade. 

Importing Tea from China

*NOTE – the following map should show the route beginning in China, and ending in England*

(This was the closest map Mrs. Norris could find to match the one in the book!!)