Continuing with my sporadic series of reviews of books about tea, today I present my thoughts on a couple of light-weights: Tea by Hattie Ellis, and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry.
These two are - for want of a better term - 'coffee table books'; they are admittedly smaller in size than most of the books that fall into this category but it's the preponderance of pretty pictures (which are very pretty indeed) that makes me classify them thus. A quick flick through Tea, for example, shows that at least 50% of the book is taken up by utterly scrumptious pictures of tea leaves, tea cups, brewed tea, tea canisters and tea pots. Great for inducing teaware envy (sigh), not likely to give me great confidence in the written information contained therein. That said, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tea does not commit the common error of saying that tea is 'fermented' during manufacture when what is really meant is that it is oxidised. The New Tea Book, on the other hand, does conflate these terms, which is slightly irritating.
Both books contain a few pages about the history of tea, information about the manufacture of the different styles of tea, some helpful basic tips on tea preparation and serving, and tea-related recipes -either incorporating tea amongst the ingredients, or to eat alongside.
In the latter category, I'm particularly tempted by the lemon-oatmeal crisps and the cashew shortbread (from The New Tea Book) and the Earl Grey Winter Fruit Salad (from Tea). The New Tea Book also contains some intriguing recipes for tea and herbal blends, such as the 'Rest and Refresh' tea containing chamomile, basil, peppermint, lemon peel and orange peel... sounds interesting, I'm going to have to try it.
Is it worth spending money on these books? Well, seeing as I picked up Tea from a second-hand book fair for $3.00, I have no regrets about that being money well-spent. The New Tea Book was considerably more expensive (about $40 new I think) - again, I am glad to have added it to my slowly-expanding shelf of tea books, but it is not as worthwhile a purchase as The Story of Tea, for example. (My opinion may change once I've had a chance to try some of those recipes, though.) However, these are both lovely books to look through, and ideal for those moments when you are tired and want a no-brainer to curl up with... the non-fiction equivalent of a Tea Shop Mystery, really.