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Story of Tea, The

by: Mary Lou and Robert Heiss

Berkeley CA: Ten Speed Press 2007, $29.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-58008-745-2

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2008 Issue: 15(2) page(s): 25

Eliot Jordan, tea director for Peet's Coffee and Tea calls this "as complete a book on the tea plant and beverage as has been published in many years." Joseph Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA considers it a "sweeping treatise that will serve as required reading for generations of tea professionals and consumers seeking to expand their knowledge." They and others expound on this encyclopedic volume about tea, and well they should.

The authors are long-time tea-traders and owners of Cooks Shop Here, a western Massachusetts purveyor of teas and other foods. They have been there more than a quarter of a century, they know and love tea, and write with understanding, knowledge, and passion. The book has looks at every aspect of tea, and it includes a few tea recipes, including a Chinese one for Spicy Oolong-smoked Duck Breasts. Like the book, it is a terrific tasty treat!

This history volume answers questions including: What is the real story about Lapsong Souchong tea; Did early emperors really only allow virgins wearing white silk gloves to pluck buds destined to become white tea: Are there really three thousand types of green tea in China; and more. They look at tea's turbulent history, its intrigue, taxation, religious aestheticism, social change, and its association with far-off lands and folks in all walks of life.

They explore the life of a tea bush, the manufacture of its leaves, how to brew the perfect cup of any number of varieties, explore tea's customs, culture, health, even the ethics in trading tea. Were all this not enough, they then list some two dozen buyer resources, and with address, telephone numbers, and e-mails, making it easy to contact them. They also provide a glossary of shapes and terms for all sizes and styles of tea, and proper descriptor-terms used in its manufacture, color, and tasting. The book ends with a thirteen-page three-column thorough cross-referenced index that lets readers find, in a flash, what they really want to know. In addition, there is a fifty-three item bibliographic listing of sources were the book's content not enough.

For those who drink tea and adore it, and for all who want or need to know about this beverage, reading this book increases knowledge, yes it adds encyclopedic knowledge about tea. Read it and learn what a fantastic plant and a great healthy beverage tea is. It is a beverage more people drink than any other.

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