Over the last few months I’ve had the pleasure of a few parcels in the mail from Amazon (there won’t be too many of those in the immediate future while the exchange rate is up the creek as it currently is, alas) which have contained some beautiful tea reference books. I’m going to review these over the next few posts.
Today it’s The Story of Tea by Robert J and Mary Lou Heiss, themselves tea retailers (through their store Cooks Shop Here) who have taken the trouble to travel and experience the world of tea production, to help them identify, and more importantly understand, the characteristics of truly superior tea.
This book is wide-ranging – it provides botanical information about tea plants, details of how black, green and oolong teas are manufactured, descriptions of tea practices in Eastern and Western culture, a brief encyclopaedia of teas from across the world, and recipes using tea to boot. It is beautifully photographed throughout, with images of tea manufacture, tea gardens, tea wares, and of course the teas themselves.
Before reading this book I did not understand how the manufacturing process affects the look and feel of the finished tea – but with some practice it is apparently possible to identify particular processes from the shape and colour of the finished leaf. Fascinating!
The book is very accessibly written – there’s enough detail so that the reader gets a good understanding of the processes involved, but it’s not weighed down with highly technical stuff, which can be off-putting if chemical formulae and that sort of thing are not your bag (they’re certainly not mine). Scattered throughout the book there are also fascinating anecdotes about the Heisses’ adventures in different countries, seeking out teas at the tops of mountains and attending tea auctions. I would love to see some of the places they’ve been to. Maybe one day!
In short, a highly recommended read, and one I’ll definitely keep coming back to.