During the 1720s tea became universally popular in the West and as Europe’s thirst for this beverage greatly increased, the chartered overseas trading companies competed with each other in sending their vessels to Canton, the only place in China to procure tea.1 Many western scholars have undertaken massive and excellent researches on the international tea trade in the eighteenth century;2 however, few of them have paid attention to how the tea production and transportation were organized, and to the domestic consequences of the international tea trade on the social economy of China in the eighteenth century.3 In this essay I will attempt to analyse the development of the commercial tea production in northwest Fujian under the stimulation of world trade, the new system of organizing tea production and transportation and its impact on the changes in forms of social production. This case study will also show how the social roots of the ancient ‘Middle Kingdom’ were shaken by the development of the commercial economy because of the boom in foreign trade and the impact of European commercial expansion into Asia.