In 1864-65, it took Gustavus Farley Jr 123 days by ship to reach Hong Kong from Boston, USA, a journey which he diarizes in the last letter in this collection. Although only twenty years old, he already had several sea-miles under his belt. At 17, he had been sent to London from his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts to be apprenticed to the tea-tasting trade under the guidance of his Heard cousins.
The main body of letters in this collection shows the young man’s experiences as an apprentice, and thus provides details of the Far East tea trade from the London end, details which the appendix, ‘A Brief History of Tea and the Tea Trade’ amplifies with regard to the drinking of tea in China and the tea-trade with China, India, Japan, etc. A second appendix, ‘Travel, the Mail and the London Docks in the Nineteenth Century’ describes the route(s) between London and the Far East.
The interesting illustrations include four sketch-maps of the journey to Hong Kong, two photos of different groups of businessmen in the Far East (including the Heard nephews) as well as a small group relating to the unloading and auction of tea on arrival in London from the Far East.