One of my favourite figures from history is Robert Fortune, the plucky Scot who, disguised as a Chinaman and under pain of death if he was caught, learned the art of tea production in China.
He spirited away the tea plants that were to break China’s monopoly on this key international commodity.
It was a spot of piracy that had geo-political ramifications that last to this day.
Tea caused wars, enriched some areas of the world at the expense of others, boosted the sales of hard drugs and caused untold environmental devastation.
The blood-stained story of tea is a fascinating one in which the Scots are front and centre.
Les Wilson is a skilled writer who weaves a fast-paced, compelling tale that begins with Fortune’s horticultural espionage in China but winds its way through India and Africa and ends up back home in bonny Scotland, where today there are now tea plantations in half of the hills and glens of the country.
Putting the Tea in Britain, by Les Wilson, published by Birlinn, £14.99.