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The Story of Hu-Kwa
Let us turn the hands of the clock back to the spring of 1840, and imagine ourselves mingling in the motley throng on the waterfront at Whampoa, the seaport of Canton.

Here is truly an interesting scene. What a maze of people surround us. The incessant chattering of the traffickers beats on our ears like the drone of a swarm of bees, and the waters of the Canton River are alive with tea-laden sampans. Let us get aboard one, and continue our journey up the river to canton. On our way up the river, I will tell you about Hu-Kwa, a “hong merchant” at Canton.

The foreign trade of Canton, in this year of 1840, is supervised by twelve natives. They own big warehouses called hongs, and are therefore known as hong merchants. Teas (and other merchandise) are packed in the interior, transported to Canton, and stored in these hongs until they are taken down the river to Whampoa and loaded on board the clipper ships.

The emperor holds the merchants responsible for all import duties and they are in several ways men of much importance.

The twelve are under the command of Hu-Kwa, who has a unique and gracious personality. You will like him, I know, for he is a warm fried of Americans and his barter with them is characterized by an ingenuous confidence and an unbusinesslike generosity.

During the reign of the Emperor KeaKing, an American gentleman whose ventures resulted in failure, found himself 72,000 dollars in debt to Hu-Kwa.

It was his only debt, and as he had long been in China, he pined for home. Hu-Kwa tore up the American merchant’s note and bade him to return home.

This is but one example of Hu-Kwa’s generosity and friendship for Americans. I could tell you of many others. And yet, in spite of these unbusiness-like vagaries, his wealth has grown until in the spring of this year when we are rowing up the Canton River he is said to be worth about five millions sterling.

Well, our little journey is finished, for here we are at Canton, or rather that small portion of it where all the foreigners are permitted to live by the Celestial Government. Just see how the river and its banks are covered with an amazing network of boats, rafts, and wharves.

As we pick our way through the busy water-front, notice the even sloped beach with the great hongs spread out at the top. Each group is marked off by its nation’s flag flung out to the breeze on a high flagpole. There’s the Stars and Stripes in the center group. Over to the left is England’s Union Jack.

And now we are before the hong of this merchant prince. Let us enter quietly the better to observe him while he is unaware of our presence, for he is now conferring with the twelve hong merchants of Canton.

There he sits at the head of this fantastic looking group. How tall and stately he is. And his face — the features, are they not remarkable?

Observe his long, thin face; his high smooth forehead, and his very bald head. Notice, too, the long thing moustache faintly indicated on the upper lip, and the wisp of hungry beard upon his quite pointed chin.

But his eyes! They are the most extraordinary part of his features; brown in color and full of intelligence, serious but kind. It is his eyes that draw his many friends to him. For they reflect his whole character, and through them men may read honesty, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and love for his fellow man.

This is the patriot Hu-Kwa, who contributed 1,100,000 dollars when his native city of Canton ransomed itself with six million dollars from the attack of Sir Hugh Gough. This is Hu-Kwa, who dedicated a fortune for the propitiation of “Fung Shuy” the invisible influence in Chinese life. This is Hu-Kwa, whose transaction with Americans amount to very large sums yearly yet nothing but initialed memoranda are taken by either side and no disputes ever arise.

And now, in 1923, more than four score years since the death of Hu-Kwa, he is remembered and revered by those whose fathers and grandfathers knew him and felt the influence of his character and life in their own lives.

Mr. Richard Devens, my uncle, and founder of this business, was one of the Americans who were in Canton. It was from him that I heard the story of this celebrated tea merchant.

As the old name “XXX” did not seem to carry with it all the atmosphere and distinction merited by so rare
a tea as ours, we adopted the one we have. Would it not be somewhat of a task to find a more appropriate name for the finest of China Teas, Hu-Kwa?

Hu-Kwa Tea is the finest and rarest of China Teas. Grown only in one little spot in the world — in the province of Foo Kien, China — its supply is naturally limited, and its value therefore enhanced.

The Mark T. Wendell Tea Company is the only importer of this tea in the United States. As the supply is always limited and much in demand by a group of China Tea enthusiasts in this country, it is suggested that, whenever you find your supply of Hu-Kwa getting low, you let us know of your requirements as soon as possible.

– Mark T. Wendell (1923)
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