As I was gearing up to write the latest edition of this column I thought I would browse through Amazon’s Kindle store, looking for books on a certain topic (first two guesses don’t count). As I did so, I found myself amazed and slightly befuddled at how many versions there are of Kakuzo Okakura’s influential 1905 work, The Book of Tea. I gather that the book is not protected under copyright laws and thus, given the relative ease of putting together a Kindle edition, you can take your pick among about a zillion of them. Given all that, I’d caution you to choose carefully.
This time around we start with a book about coffee (excuse me?). Bear with me for a moment, if you will, and no, I’m not going over to the dark side. I haven’t actually read Steven Ward’s The Coffeeist Manifesto: No More Bad Coffee! but based on the description, I like what he seems to be striving for. Here in the tea world we’re all making great strides nowadays but in my opinion people are still too willing to accept bad or mediocre tea. So The Teaist Manifesto? Anyone?
If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to Chinese tea you might want to look into something like Bret Hinsch’s The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Tea. It’s bills itself as “the first comprehensive and accurate book in English on the fine art of Chinese tea.” Which might be overstating things just a bit, given how many other books on the topic are out there. Take The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Ancient Chinese Tea Masters, by Warren Peltier, for example. It treads similar ground and appears to have been published a few months prior to the aforementioned volume.
If you’re pressed for time and you couldn’t possibly commit to reading 20 lessons on tea, 27Press has just the thing for you. That would be 19 Lessons On Tea: Become an Expert on Buying, Brewing, and Drinking the Best Tea. Whether it’s really “the ultimate guide to everything you need to know about this healthy and flavorful daily indulgence” is something you’ll have to judge for yourself.
If you’re ready to make a substantially larger commitment you could take a crack at 365 Things Every Tea Lover Should Know, by Harvest House Publishers. It’s apparently a “fun, attractive collection rejoices in all there is to learn, savor, praise, and enjoy about tea.” I haven’t done the math but if try a selection a day you should be able to get through it in about a year.
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