I love drinking tea and I love reading books: lovely, old-fashioned, printed on paper, put on a shelf, read in the bath, books. There are some beautiful and fascinating books about tea which contain a wealth of information not available anywhere else, not even on the internet.
A little knowledge about the origins of tea, its history, how it gets from the field to your cup and its many variations can enhance your tea drinking experience. Adding just one of the books that follow to your library will greatly broaden your tea horizons.
So far, my tea library is fairly small: just the six books that follow. There are some on my wishlist which I hope to read and review very soon and you can find those at the end of this post.
All of the following are in print and reasonably up-to-date. The exception of The Tea Book, which is a timeless classic and is available in dozens of different versions with differing amounts of illustrations and so on. The one below is the one found on my bookshelf.
The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard
The publisher, DK, has developed a reputation over the past twenty years for its richly illustrated, clear and informative books about all manner of subjects, and this book is no exception. It is full of the most beautiful photographs of tea and tea culture from around the world.
It starts by going into detail about “What is tea?”, followed by guidance on how to brew the perfect infusion. It then takes you on a tour of the world’s main tea producing regions complete with maps.
It has 75 tea recipes to try and finishes with an extensive set of feature articles about different tea cultures, including Russia and Morocco. It has detailed information about tea tasting, including a tea tasting wheel. It is absolutely packed full of fascinating tea facts and I absolutely love this book!
The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas by Mary Lou and Robert Heiss
A brilliant little introduction, this is a pocket guide to all things tea. Despite its small size, the authors manage to distill their decades of expertise into this highly practical and fact-filled work on tea and its origins. They look at the six main types of tea (green, yellow, white, oolong, black and Pu-erh) and give advice on choosing, buying, storing and brewing tea.
Full of beautiful photographs but small enough to store next to the kettle, this is an invaluable guide to the world’s favourite hot beverage.
Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne
An updated edition of the “World’s Best Tea Book” acclaimed by the 2014 World Tea Awards. This is a lovely book, full of photos and this third edition has added lots more content.
Each of the authors focuses on one of the world’s biggest tea-growing countries and regions (China, Japan, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam and East Africa) which they travel to every year. They own the Camellia Sinensis Tea House in Montreal and import teas directly from producers in these countries.
The book covers tea history, the growing, harvesting and processing of tea, interviews with key people in the tea industry, a wealth of information about the way tea is prepared and drunk in different parts of the world, the biochemical properties of tea and tea recipes.
Homegrown Tea by Cassie Liversidge
It is a beautiful book full of illustrations, advice and practical tips for everything from choosing and growing tea plants to plucking and processing the leaves to brew into a drink. She also explains how to grown tea from seeds or cuttings, and there is an illustrated guide to show how to make up fresh and dried teabags.
The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzō with an Introduction by Nicholas Tamblyn (Illustrated)
An absolute classic work, first published in 1906, this is all about tea in Japan and how it has influenced all aspects of Japanese culture, from art to architecture to the highly elaborate tea ceremony. It’s a book about tea as the foundation for a philosophy of life that, drawing on Zen and Taoism, places a high value on simplicity and peace.
Culinary Tea: More Than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition by Cynthia Gold and Lise Stern
My grandmother would have loved this book. Beautifully photographed and produced, its first part contains information about the flavour profiles of different teas, choosing, storing and brewing tea. However, its main feature is the wealth of recipes starters, main courses and desserts using tea.
It has eighteen recipes for alcoholic tea drinks including my absolute favourite: Earl Grey Gin. We’re not going to pretend to have tried all the recipes (yet!) but we have tried the balsamic and tea-caramelised onions, the Assam shortbread diamonds, the smoky black lentils which uses Lapsang Souchong and the pasta with matcha, all of which were lovely. There are more adventurous recipes involving meat but we’re not the most confident cooks so haven’t tried those. It’s on our to-do list!
The Book of Japanese Tea by Oscar Brekell
Japanese tea is a whole universe of tea types, customs and practices quite different from any in the rest of the world, so thank goodness for Oscar Brekell’s book. A bilingual book in Japanese and English, it tells the story of Japanese tea and how it has changed over time. He introduces and describes all the many cultivars and types of Japanese tea and the different growing regions within Japan.
There are beautiful photographs of tea and radar charts showing the intensity of the different types of flavours (umami, sweetness, bitterness, astringency) for each of the types of tea. He also goes into detail as to how to brew Japanese tea and how to choose a good Japanese tea pot. Highly recommended if you’re interested in knowing more about this fascinating tea culture.
Tea books on my wishlist
Here are the tea-related books that I’m hoping to find time to read in the not-too-distant future:
The New Tea Companion: A Guide to Teas Throughout the World by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson
This is the third edition of the official textbook for the Canadian Tea Sommelier Certification courses so itpromises to be highly informative as well as filled with beautiful photographs. This is the updated third edition of this work and includes information about tea and health.
Featured image: thanks to Suzy Hazelwood / Pexels