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In 18th-century America, the pleasant practice of taking tea at home was an established social custom with a recognized code of manners and distinctive furnishings. Pride was taken in a correct and fashionable tea table whose equipage included much more than teapot, cups, and saucers. (Rodris Roth)

Americans are not the greatest tea drinkers in the world, not by a long shot, but we drink our fair share and always have. While we tend to think of the historical version of America as a rough and tumble place, as the passage quoted above indicates, that’s only partially true and in many places the polite custom of taking tea was well established. The passage is taken from a brief but informative work called Tea Drinking in 18th-century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage, by Rodris Roth, which was published by the US National Museum in 1961.

The work opens with a quote from a French traveler to America, who noted, in 1781, that the Americans “use much tea.” As is the case with so many tea books, the author then proceeds to give a brief overview of the history of tea and moves on to a discussion of tea drinking in early America and notes, not surprisingly, that “English customs were generally imitated in this country, particularly in the urban centers.”

Of course, any discussion of tea drinking during this era can’t really avoid the tension between colonists and the British regarding the topic of tea. Roth touches on this as well, even quoting an anti-tea poem that appeared in newspapers of the day called A Lady’s Adieu to Her Tea-Table.

But of course tea drinking continued even after the great conflict had ended and the author touches on this as well. As the name indicates, however, the focus here is primarily on manners and teaware. And, even though the work only totals 31 pages in all, it provides an in-depth, illustrated look at tea culture during this time, one that’s probably more than anyone but the most avid tea historian would ever need.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Black tea in the cup (ETS image)

Black tea in the cup (ETS image)

If you’re looking for old books about tea there are plenty of them just a click away, thanks to the ongoing efforts to digitize what seems like every piece of printed material ever published. I’ve written about many of these over the years and keep waiting for the supply to run dry, but it hasn’t yet.

The latest one I’d like to discuss is a volume with the rather concise title, A Cup of Tea: Containing a History of the Tea Plant from Its Discovery to the Present Time, Including Its Botanical Characteristics … and Embracing Mr. William Saunders’ Pamphlet on Tea-culture–a Probable American Industry. That’s actually the condensed version, by the way, and you get bonus points for saying it three times fast.

The book was published in 1884 and its co-writer, Joseph M. Walsh, also penned a few other books on tea. They are Tea, Its History and Mystery and Tea-blending as a Fine Art, and he also wrote a book on coffee. The book starts, as so many tea books do, with a history of tea, noting how it started in China and spread to other parts of Asia and elsewhere and discussing how it eventually made its way to Europe and the United States.

Next up is a chapter on tea’s botanical characteristics and another on cultivation and preparation. The chapter on Chemical, Medicinal and Dietical Properties discusses the theine in tea, which is another word for caffeine and not to be confused with theanine, a compound that was discovered later. As for its medicinal properties, the author is mostly bullish on these, unlike some commentators of yesteryear who were not always convinced that tea was such a good thing.

The rest of the book is given over to chapters on classification, adulteration and blending. Walsh, an American, close things with a chapter called Tea-Culture, A Probable American Industry. As the name suggests, the chapter focuses on the ins and outs of setting up a tea industry here in the United States. Which, alas, was not really something that came to pass. Tea was already being grown in the US at the time and still is even to this day, but has always been more of a curiosity than a significant industry.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Each time I embark upon the writing of this column, I find myself getting a little nervous. After all, the supply of new tea books has to run out some time. Doesn’t it? Well, maybe it will at some point, but we apparently haven’t gotten to that point just yet. So let’s get on with it.

I don’t recall seeing many (any?) books about that picturesque tea-growing region of India known as Darjeeling. Yes, you know the one. But that’s about to change, as of next May. When we’ll be presented with Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea, by Jeff Koehler. Information is still a bit sparse on this one but among the author’s other books, for what it’s worth, are cookbooks focused on the cuisine of Spain and Morocco.

Tea and Downton Abbey seem to go hand in hand for some reason and so it’s probably no surprise that an enterprising publisher has chosen to capitalize on this. With the recently published Tea at Downton: Afternoon Tea Recipes From The Unofficial Guide to Downton Abbey, by Elizabeth Fellow. Which promises to “share some recipes from the golden age of England.”

Once upon a time the only sommeliers to be found were the kind who tended to the wine drinking types. But the times are changing and author Jennifer Petersen has commemorated these changes with Foundations of Tea: Tea Sommelier Journal: Taste, Taste, Taste, which was also released recently. As the publisher’s description notes, the book “is a comprehensive organizational tool for organizing and recording your sensory evaluations of tea. This forward-thinking journal provides guidelines for tasting various types of tea, steeping times and evaluations for any type of tea or herbal infusions.”

If you don’t know anything about Persian tea, then we’re pretty much in the same boat. If you’d like to know more about Persian tea, you might want to start with The Art of Persian Tea, by Farahnaz Amirsoleymani. In which the author “highlights the essentials of Persian tea culture: tradition, blending, & brewing the perfect cup.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tea books abound, as fellow blogger William I. Lengeman III has shown on this blog in his monthly postings about the latest of them. And I have learned to “just say no” when it comes to offers to review new ones. I would be spending time on nothing else. However, a little book called Tea Wisdom by Aaron Fisher from Tuttle Publishing was too enticing to give the brush off.

That little book is a teapot magnet! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

That little book is a teapot magnet! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

On the day this little book arrived by post, the atmosphere went from doldrums to excitement in a flash. I opened the package, admired the cover design (not a teabag in sight), flipped through the pages briefly to get a feel for the contents, and then laid it on the dining room table away from any dangers of spillage or other damage-causing elements. Off I trotted to the kitchen to put the kettle on for tea. (How can you read a book about tea without having some tea to sip on?) I swear I was only out of the room a minute, two at the most. Here’s the sight that awaited me on my return to the dining room:

Now, I’ve mentioned before on this blog that teapots tend to gather and discuss the humans they steep tea for (I wouldn’t dare say that humans own teapots – that’s like saying that humans own cats, which could never be since cats always choose us, never the other way around, and so it is with teapots). So, it should come as no surprise to you that I found several teapots gathered around that little book and holding a rather heated discussion that went something like this:

  • Brown teapot (aka “Mr. Dragon”): “That teapot on the cover looks a bit like me.”
  • White teapot (aka “Li’l One Cupper”): “Does not. Looks like Little Yellow Teapot’s dad.”
  • Large teapot (aka “Bruno”): “How do you know, Li’l One Cupper, since you never seen him?”
  • Black teapot (aka “Castie the Cast Iron Teapot”): “It sure looks like how he was described.”
  • Mr. Dragon: “Nah……I’m telling you it looks more like me. Observe the stubby spout.”
  • Yellow teapot (aka “Little Yellow Teapot”): “Who cares? It’s what’s inside that counts. Lots of tea wisdom from around the globe. It’s wisdom from humans, not teapots. Maybe for their next book they’ll consult some of us or our cousins from afar. TOOOT!”

That debate being over, I chased them all back to their places, finished steeping a nice hot pot of Keemun Panda, and sat down to sip tea and read all that tea wisdom. Here are some favorite passages:

  • “Whenever friends and family sit around a table, a cup of fragrant tea will lend its rich aroma and warm presence to any occasion.” – Ling Wang (p. 18)
  • “Though I cannot flee / From the world of corruption, / I can prepare tea / With water from a mountain stream / And put my heart to rest.” – Ueda Akinara (p. 31)
  • “[I am] a hardened and shameless tea drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals only with the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.” – Samuel Johnson (p. 65)
  • “Our camp-kettle, filled from the brook, hummed doubtfully for a while, then busily bubbled under the sidelong glare of the flames; cups clinked and rattled, the fragrant steam ascended, and soon this little circlet in the wilderness grew aswarm [sic] and genial as my lady’s drawing room.” – Alexander Kinglake (p. 99)
  • “Spring scenery is as beautiful as it could be, / Flowers in full bloom in the land of tea. / Beautiful Xishuangbanna is on its soar, / Puerh tea will show its brilliance once more.” – Yang Jiang Ming (p. 177) [Note: Xishuangbanna is an area in the Yunnan Province of China; the area is home to several mountains famous for the exquisite teas grown on them, and pu-erh teas are their specialty.]

Tea Wisdom is a small book with beautiful photos, larger print (but not huge), and a wealth of wisdom about tea. It is perfect for a tea moment of just you, a cuppa, and the wisdom of the ages. The author has traveled in many of the world’s best tea producing areas and now resides in Taiwan, famous for its oolongs (try the Formosa oolong sometime – heaven!). Small wonder the teapots were drawn to it like moths to a light!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing a bunch of monthly columns about tea books, as well as some miscellaneous articles about tea books, I assumed that I was aware of absolutely every tea book that’s been loosed on the world in recent years. But that’s not quite true, as I realized when I was contacted recently by a company that has published a number of tea-related titles. While I wait for the supply of recent and upcoming books to replenish itself a bit I thought I’d take a look at a few volumes I’ve managed to overlook.

Judging from the title there’s no doubt about what The Japanese Tea Ceremony, from a few years ago, is all about. It’s actually a reissue of a 1933 volume by A. L. Sadler, an Australian professor of oriental studies. The publisher claims that “this classic remains the gold standard for books on the five-centuries-old tea ceremony.”

For another variation on the same theme, but one well over a century older, you can try Stories from a Tearoom Window, by Shigenori Chikamatsu. An eighteenth century warrior, Chikamatsu “set down scores of legends, anecdotes and bits of lore to express the essence of the tea ceremony for the edification of tea connoisseurs.” It was first translated into English in 1982 and reissued a few decades later.

While we’re on the topic of Japanese tea it’s a good time to mention The Book of Tea Classic Edition, a deluxe edition of Okakura Kakuzo’s 1906 volume, a volume that has remained in print, in one form or another, for more than a century. Or, in a similar vein, Tea Cult Of Japan, by Tasunosuke Fukukita, which first appeared in the 1930s and which was reissued about seven decades later.

Last up, Healthy Teas, by Tammy Safi, has been around since the early days of the recent tea/health craze. But it’s worth seeking out if you’re looking for “a delightful introduction to the history and healing properties of green tea, the health benefits of black teas, and the life-enhancing attributes of herbal and fruit infusions and decoctions.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Avert your eyes, if you must, and move on to the next paragraph, but I’m going to kick off this installment of the tea book column with a book about coffee. Gasp. It’s called Coffee Gives Me Superpowers: An Illustrated Book about the Most Awesome Beverage on Earth and it’s by Ryoko Iwata. I mention it not to quibble with the idea that coffee is the most awesome beverage on Earth (though I certainly disagree) but to note that it might be interesting to see a similar volume – one that’s “full of infographics, quizzes, and other fun and interesting facts” – discussing the wonders of tea.

I’m not well versed when it comes to the later Disney characters, but I gather that young ladies of a certain age might be familiar with one named Sofia the First. In the interests of getting those young Sofia fans on the right path (of tea drinking) at an early age, I’ll direct you to the teacup-shaped Sofia the First: Sofia’s Cup of Tea, which hits the stores early in 2015.

Sofia the First: Sofia's Cup of Tea (via Yahoo! images)

Sofia the First: Sofia’s Cup of Tea (via Yahoo! images)

In the same vein is the Hello Kitty: Tea Party Set, which rolls out this September and which “has a chunky eight-page board book and 15 puzzle pieces to match to the spaces on the book pages, as Hello Kitty gets everything ready to host a tea party for her friends.” Also up in early 2015 is yet another book for those who fancy fiction with a tea-related theme. It’s called The Traveling Tea Shop, by Belinda Jones, and concerns the adventures of the assistant to and the host of a tea-themed TV show.

If it was a real TV show, they might want to keep in mind a nonfiction tea book that’s also coming out in 2015. It’s another entry into the increasingly crowded field of tea cuisine books and it’s called Steeped: Recipes to Infuse Your Day with Tea, by Annelies Zijderveld. As the publisher’s description puts it, “tea is also very of the moment, and rising ever-higher in the food world, starring in Martha Stewart’s Jasmine Shortbread Sandwich Cookies, Food 52’s Darjeeling Tea Pain Perdu, and the Beard Foundation’s Tea Sorbet.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Collectible Teapot and Tea Calendar 2015 (from Yahoo Images)

Collectible Teapot and Tea Calendar 2015 (from Yahoo Images)

When I wrote a profile of tea person and author Babette Donaldson a little while back it somehow escaped my notice that she had written a tea-themed book for children. Although I guess it’s more correct to call it a book for both children and adults. It’s called Fun With Tea: Activities for Tea Loving Adults to Share With Their Favorite Young Sippers and it’s described as a “teatime activity book for all ages and various kinds of tea parties.”

Over the years I’ve written about some of the various ways that tea has made its way into fiction and here’s yet another example. It’s the recently released Tempest in a Teapot, by Amanda Cooper. It’s billed as A Teapot Collector Mystery and it’s apparently the first in yet another series in the popular field of whimsical themed cozy mysteries. And while we’re speaking of teapots it’s as good a time as any to make a note on your calendar to pick up The Collectible Teapot & Tea Calendar 2015, by Annabel Freyberg and photographer Martin Brigdale.

Speaking of tea and fiction, one of the better known titles that uses tea and yet has nothing directly to do with tea is due for a reissue later this year – when it will appear for the first time in a trade paperback edition. That’s The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by the late Douglas Adams, best known for his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

If it’s tea houses that thrill your soul then you might want to get a look at Neo-Chinese Style Tea Houses, which just made its way to bookstore shelves. Which I first mentioned in an article on tea houses and the like called A Space for Tea. It’s an impressive coffee table (pardon the expression) type book and as the description notes, it “showcases some of the most elegant teahouses, simple yet contemporary in design; beautiful corridors and intimate rooms lead towards escape and sanctuary with a unique purpose.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The avalanche of tea books seems neverending, with many of them highlighted on this blog by my fellow blogger Bill Lengeman (his latest: Recent and Upcoming Tea Books 17). At some point my mind starts to overheat, the gears start to go “Screeeeee!” and I call out “Enough!” The next words out of my mouth are usually “Are there too many tea books?” As usual, it depends.

Sipping Vanilla Comoro while leafing through “The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea” (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Sipping Vanilla Comoro while leafing through “The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea” (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

“Too many” usually means there is far more than is needed to meet a specific requirement. In my early days of writing about tea, my Harney & Sons tea book was a must, but a horde of books on tea would have been repetitive and overwhelming. This book covers basics and helps those just starting to learn about tea. Another book called simply Tea was also a great intro. And it has lots more large, gorgeous photos. Ah! The visually oriented part of my brain was made very happy.

“The China Tea Book” – gorgeous and informative! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

“The China Tea Book” – gorgeous and informative! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Sooner or later, tea drinkers find that they want to focus on certain types of tea. In my case, I am shifting more towards an Asian experience (it’s about 20% of my tea drinking right now) and so wanted to focus my reading more in that direction. So, when I had the chance to receive a review copy of a book about tea in China, I said “Sure!” So, my tea library grew when The China Tea Book arrived. Great info and more gorgeous photos. The perfect book to peruse during my Afternoon Oolong session.

In between the books named above, other tea books came my way, some fiction, some more factual, and some a total jumble. Some were fun reads, others bored me to tears. But I digress. The question still remains about there being “too many” tea books.

As far as the world is concerned, there can probably never be too many tea books, but for my little library, I’m going to be very selective and avoid the daily barrage of new tea books that come on the market. One reason: most of them repeat information I can readily find elsewhere and others are published more as vanity books than to add to the array of knowledge about tea. That brings up another question: are there too many inaccurate and frivolous books out there about tea? The answer is……

Sorry, that’s for another article!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

"Iced Tea: 50 Recipes for Refreshing Tisanes, Infusions, Coolers, and Spiked Teas" by Fred Thompson (screen capture from site)

“Iced Tea: 50 Recipes for Refreshing Tisanes, Infusions, Coolers, and Spiked Teas” by Fred Thompson (screen capture from site)

Fred Thompson has written books about a variety of beverages, including lemonade, hot chocolate, and bourbon. But with iced tea season getting under way for so many of us it’s as good a time as any to mention the other beverage he wrote about. Yes, that would be iced tea. Iced Tea: 50 Recipes for Refreshing Tisanes, Infusions, Coolers, and Spiked Teas is not exactly a new release. But it’s kind of an old standby and it’s worth looking at again, given that it’s the time of the year for this sort of thing.

Here’s a volume that came out relatively recently (last year) that I somehow missed. But there’s no time like the present to give it a mention. Tea parties are not my sort of thing, but if they’re yours you might be interested in The Vintage Tea Party Year, by Angel Adoree. It “takes you on twelve months of parties, celebrations and teatime treats as well as introducing more games and craft projects for your chosen theme.”

Which seems to be the follow up and/or companion volume to the author’s The Vintage Tea Party Book: A Complete Guide to Hosting your Perfect Party, which came out a year earlier. If that’s not enough of this sort of thing for you, then take a look at Vintage Tea Party, by Carolyn Caldicott, which was published the same year.

I wrote about clipper ships and most notably the Cutty Sark in an article that was published here a while ago. If you’d like a much more in-depth look at the Cutty Sark you should probably check out the forthcoming Cutty Sark: The Last of the Tea Clippers, by Eric Kentley. It’s described as “the eventful history of one of the world’s most famous and celebrated ships.”

I might have let it slip before that the British are rather fond of tea. If you doubt it even for a moment, then consider the name of this very blog site, for starters. Not that I really needed to convince you but if you’d like to read about how tea came to be such a big deal for the British try Tea: A History of Britain’s Greatest Love Affair, by Paul Chrystal. Which promises to reveal “how tea has defined us and informed our way of life over the last 500 years.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In recent years it seems that, if you’re the head of a successful tea company, the thing to do is write a book. If you don’t believe it, we’ll start with exhibit A, a recent volume that fits the bill. Then we’ll move onto exhibits B and C, which have been out for a while but which you might have missed.

Exhibit A

As the title suggests, Zhena Muzyka’s upcoming book is an inspirational tale that’s probably focuses as much on her life story as it is on tea. It’s called Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success and you can pick up a copy sometime in mid-2014. The story looks at how Muzyka, a young mother in tough straits, started with the custom tea blends she sold from a tea cart and built that into a successful tea company.

Exhibit B

As the authors of Mission in a Bottle note, “We were thirsty. We couldn’t find anything we wanted to drink, so we started a company to make bottled iced tea that actually tasted like tea.” The book came out last year and those authors are Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff, the co-founders of one of the larger concerns currently making bottled iced tea that actually tastes like tea. With the subtitle, The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently–and Succeeding, it’s clear that the focus of this tome is a little more on the nuts and bolts of how a successful company was built from the ground up. Read all about it, including a sample chapter, at the book’s web site.

Exhibit C

As I noted in my article on the twentieth anniversary of another well-known tea vendor, in addition to selling tea their gimmick has always been that they structure themselves as an imaginary republic, complete with ministers, ambassadors, citizens, and embassies. Which correspond to employees, sales reps, customer, and retailers. Some time back, not so long after they started the company, actually, Mel Ziegler, Patricia Ziegler, and Bill Rosenzweig, the guiding lights behind the company, penned their own account of the making of this popular and successful tea company. It’s called The Republic of Tea: The Story of the Creation of a Business, as Told Through the Personal Letters of Its Founders.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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