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Tea: The Drink That Changed The World

by: Laura C. Martin

Tokyo Japan: Tuttle Publishing 2007, $21.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-0-8048-3742-8

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2008 Issue: 15(1) page(s): 21

From raw tea leaf use as medicine to modern-day drinking looking for a moment of calm, the ten chapters educate from shrub to cup. History, legend, tea in Ancient China and Korea, in Japan, and in many British outposts are in this book.

Half the chapters are China-oriented, and not to be missed. They are, though not exactly their titles: Tea's history and legend, in ancient China, in the Ming dynasty, in China (India and Ceylon), and today and tomorrow.

Proverbs and education compete for one's attention. The first of the former, illustration and all, says: Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary. A later one says: Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world mix with interesting information including that people of the Ming dynasty drank tea for solace, celebration, and for any number of other reasons as illustrated in a poem by Hsu Tze-shu.

Those not knowing 'The Eight Regulations' of that time learn, among other things, that women were not allowed inside tea factories. The whys of many of them are less clear.

History is not limited to the first chapter, nor to the ones about China; but for the purposes of this magazine, they are well illuminated. So are technical topics from height of tea varieties, clipper ships known as tea wagons, afternoon tea, Lipton tea, John Jacob Astor who earned a fortune on the tea trade, and that in 2010 the United States tea market should reach ten billion dollars.

The book ends with an appendix of tea-growing countries, China among them, a glossary of tea-terms used by professionals, choice teas around the world, tisanes or the herbal teas, and more. There are ten useful web sites and a selected bibliography of thirty-six references. Throughout are many illustrations to illuminate its content. Do drink them all in.

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