I come across many tea books as I peruse the shelves at book stores and libraries, where I spend a great deal of my free time. Many of them are redundant, but this book is not one of them. The Story of Tea by Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss is one of the most informative and comprehensive tea texts that I have ever come across. The authors are owners of a tea shop and have devoted their life to the pursuit of knowledge of all things tea.
The history section goes far beyond the usual leaves falling into the emperor’s cup story, tracing the history of tea not only in China but also in Tibet and into the West. But it was the manufacturing section that really sold me on this book. The authors go into great detail explaining each and every step of the process to make all of the varieties of the world’s tea, as well as the cultivation of the tea bush. Don’t believe me? Eighty pages on this topic, all of them fabulously interesting.
The book also discusses the different tea growing regions in far more detail than the encyclopedic entries in many tea books. Later on there is an encyclopedia of tea, nearly a book unto itself. And if you thought you knew everything there was to know about brewing the perfect cuppa, there are twenty pages of information on that particular subject. I even found some new information on those pages, but I’ll leave those to you to discover. There are also interesting sections on tea cultures around the world.
At the end of the book, there is one section about the health benefits of tea and another about cooking with tea. With the extensive bibliography in the back, I believe that the section on health and caffeine is one of the most accurate that I have seen. There are many misconceptions about tea and caffeine, and the authors make sure to address all of the factors that go into the caffeine content of your cup of tea. The section on tea ethics should be read by all tea drinkers, and some of the recipes are quite original.
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