Friday, 19 December 2008

Tea books, round 2!

Next on my list of books of tea enlightenment to review is The New Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson. This came out in a new edition in October 2008, covering an expanded list of teas (120, I believe, as compared with 80 for previous editions). The copy I have is one of those hardback books that is a bit narrow for its height and page-thickness; this coupled with its newness can make it a little hard to hold open comfortably. But it’s well-worth the effort.

The book opens with a section on the history and production of tea, with a North American focus (how I do long for a book about tea in the Australian clime; perhaps I shall have to write it myself) including a section (of course) the Boston Tea Party. This is an event I haven’t read much about so the coverage of it here was of considerable interest to me – although given that the section is only a few (narrow) pages long it may be too brief for others with a deeper knowledge of the history of this event.

There are also short sections about brewing different styles of tea (black, green oolong etc) and then the really drool-worthy bit begins – the remainder of the book is devoted to an encyclopaedia of teas by world region (India, China, Sri Lanka, Japan, and smaller tea-producing countries as well). The Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan teas are classified by estate/region and flush, where appropriate (this kind of classification is not used in the production of Japanese green teas, as I understand it). The authors present photographs of the dry and wet leaves and the brewed cup along with brewing suggestions and some tasting (or other) notes about the tea.

I am not sure how easy it would be to source (from Australia) some of the specific estate teas that are mentioned – and from what I read on lists such as TeaMail there can be a great deal of variation in quality, flavour, etc between harvests even from a single garden (as you would expect from a product so deeply affected by issues of climate and terroir as tea). But it’s definitely a book to curl up and dream with!

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