Good news for Chinese readers: this article has been published in the July 2020 <Tea Times 茶博览> tea magazine in Chinese,”中国汉口与德国汉堡的海上茶路” page 54-57. Read More
Since the 19th century, tea had rapidly replaced silk as the most important and bulk export commodity in China, in the case of Guangzhou (Canton), from 1817 to 1833, the annual average export of tea accounted for 51.1% of the total export value, accounting for 60.8% of the total export value of agricultural products in the same period. German firm Carlowitz & Co (Carlowitz), one of the most famous far east firms had been operating in Guangzhou in 1840’s, which located its headquarters in Hamburg. Another Hamburg firm Siemssen & Co. (Siemssen) opened in Guangzhou in 1846. After the first Opium War in 1842, with the opening of five newly opened treaty ports, Shanghai in the Yangtze River estuary was closest to the origin of tea, the main export goods. Tea from Fujian, Jiangxi and other regions was no longer transported to Guangzhou, but to the intermediate station of North-South sea transportation, Shanghai. Merchants from all countries flocked to Shanghai to increase the purchase of agricultural and sideline products such as tea. Siemsse settled in Shanghai in 1856, it is the first German-funded firm to open in Shanghai. As one of Germany’s largest foreign firms in China, C. Melchers GmbH & Co. (Melchers) from Bremen firstly set foot in China as early as the late Qing Dynasty and set its headquarters in Shanghai, Carlowitz and Siemssen entered Shanghai in 1877 and in 1846, and later Shanghai became the headquarters, all these provided conditions for Germany’s domestic supply of Chinese tea. The second Opium War took place in 1856-1860, China had opened 16 ports from coastal areas to the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Hankou is located at the core of tea producing areas in Central China and on the golden waterway.