Wish the British public had been keen on opium instead, would've been much simpler.
[Robert Fortune] watched each step of the processing carefully, saying nothing, making notes, and occasionally asking Wang to put a question to a manager or worker. At one end of the factory the supervisor stood over a white porcelain mortar. In the bowl was a deep blue powder, made finer and finer with each grind of the pestle. The superintendent was in fact preparing iron ferrocyanide, a substance also known as Prussian blue, a pigment used in paints.
... Fortunately for the tea drinkers of Britain, Prussian blue is a complex molecule, so it is almost impossible to release the cyanide ion from it and the poison passes harmlessly through the body.
Elsewhere in the factory, however, over charcoal fires where the tea was roasted, Fortune discovered a man cooking a bright yellow powder into a paste. The smell was terrible, like that of rotten eggs. The yellow substance was gypsum, or calcium sulfate dehydrate, a common component of plaster. Gypsum produces hydrogen sulfide gas as it breaks down. While the gas is produced naturally by the body in low doses, in high doses it acts as a broad-spectrum poison, affecting many of the body's systems simultaneously, particularly the nervous system.
... Consumed over the long term it might produce fatigue, memory loss, headaches, irritability, and dizziness.
Fortune estimated that more than half a pound of plaster and Prussian blue was included in every hundred pounds of tea being prepared. The average Londoner was believed to consume as much as one pound of tea per year, which meant that Chinese tea was effectively poisoning British consumers. The additives were not included maliciously, however, for the Chinese simply believed that foreigners wanted their green tea to look green.
Definitely luck-driven. If you get the wrong events at the wrong time, or the right prices fail to show up, you're basically screwed.
Which is pretty much how things go in real life, yes? You can do all the right things and still lose.
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