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!