Chelsea Physic Garden

66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HS, London

Tea can be found growing at Chelsea Physic Garden, a walled garden covering 3.8 acres. It was founded in the 17th century to study the medicinal qualities of plants.

It has since become one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world.


Botanist, plant hunter and traveller, Robert Fortune was curator of Chelsea Physic Garden from 1846 to 1848.

In 1848, at the request of the East India Company, Fortune transported 20,000 seedlings of tea from China to India, using cases like miniature greenhouses, along with a group of trained Chinese tea workers.  

He did so, as in 1834, China had removed The East India Company's exclusive rights to tea trading. The Company decided that if they could not get tea from China, they would take the seeds and plants and grow it themselves in India.

Fortune's transportation led to the establishment of the tea industry in India. The Chinese government banned the export of tea plants, so Fortune had to buy the seedlings in secret, disguising himself as a Chinese merchant during several journeys.

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