You might not know this, but I LOVE tea. There is probably more space in my cabinets devoted to tea and its various implements than any other single food or beverage in my kitchen. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties at my library.
I've read a few books about tea before (yes, I'm that much of geek), but none that covered so much ground--both literally and metaphorically--or had so many high-quality illustrations. This is really a gorgeously photographed book.
That being said, I've also never read a book about tea that was this boring.
Here is just a sampling of the type of writing that will greet you upon opening this book:
"Picking tea leaves is a simple yet critical activity that involves detaching the young shoots from the plants."Could you repeat that, please? I don't know what the word crit-i-cal means.
"Flavor is the combination of olfacto-gustatory sensations derived from consuming a food."But what is the sound of one mind screaming? Riddle me that, Zen word master.
I would describe the style of writing in this book as "government pamphlet," but I'm pretty sure I've read a few government publications that were more entertaining to read than Tea is. It is so pedantic and dry that I'm amazed a human being even wrote it. I think I honestly would rather watch grass grow than spend hours of my life reading this book.
Image courtesy of Slow Food Australia
To be fair, there are some interesting parts that introduced new factoids to me. For example, I didn't know that oxidation effects the hue of the tea. I also really liked reading the sections on how different countries drink tea, particularly the gong fu cha tea ceremony practiced in Taiwan. This type of tea ceremony isn't well-known to people in America (certainly not in comparison to Japan's chanoyu ceremony), but if you need a visual of it you can watch "The Blind Banker" episode of Sherlock Holmes--the tea ceremony Soo Lin Yao performs is Taiwanese.
Other than those few sections, though, for the most part this is a book written by and for people in the tea industry who want to know about distribution, prices, quality, and when and where to buy. It's beyond the scope of interest of even a devoted tea drinker, like myself; and even if it wasn't, do you really want to subject yourself to 200+ pages of that writing style? I know I don't.
Unless you're planning on opening a tea company, I'd recommend going with another book.
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