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Occasionally I take a look at a book here that I might have overlooked and this time around its Wild Tea Hunter, by JT Hunter, who “has studied with Taoist masters, Buddhist monks, and the tribal people of Yunnan in their mysterious tea cultures.” The book currently appears to be available only in an electronic edition and, though it’s only 152 pages, it promises quite a lot to prospective readers. Check out the description of the book and more at the web site. You can also find out more about the author at his web site, Wild Tea Qi.

One of the topics Hunter tackles in his book are the alleged health benefits of tea. A topic that’s expanded to book length in The Healing Power of Tea: Simple Teas & Tisanes to Remedy and Rejuvenate Your Health, by Caroline Dow. The author makes what may be the unique claim of being “a tea-leaf reader and herbalist for thirty years, and conducts popular workshops on tea-leaf reading all over the country.” [Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.]

While the book contains the obligatory sections on the history of tea and other common topics, it’s obviously focused on health and also includes sections on recipes, specific health benefits and how to grow a tea garden of your own. Look for it at the end of 2014. If you’re interested in the subject of tea leaf reading, then have a look at Dow’s Tea Leaf Reading For Beginners: Your Fortune in a Tea Cup, which came out a few years ago.

Tea person Lisa Boalt Richardson, who was profiled on this blog recently, has written a few books about tea thus far and she’s got another in the pipeline. In the last few years she’s come out with such titles as Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea and The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far. I wasn’t able to find much in the way of details for her latest – Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage – but look for it in late 2014.

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.

If you’ve ever noted some of the weighty titles and subtitles of books that are published nowadays, rest assured that this is hardly a recent trend. Older books equaled or surpassed anything that modern-day publishers and authors can come up with. If you want proof of this then look to the subject of this article, Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea: Viewed Classically, Poetically, and Practically: Containing Numerous Curious Dishes and Feasts of All Times and All Countries, by Julia C. Andrews.

The book was published in 1860 and as the title suggests it’s a somewhat unusual take on the cookbook. Obviously tea is not the focus of the book and the “tea” in the title refers to tea in the sense of a meal rather than a beverage. But the tea section is an interesting one nonetheless and is further divided into five chapters.

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Three of these look at the Tea-Biscuits and Cakes, preserves and other things that might be served at a tea, including such items as rye drop cake and Mrs. Grundy’s Cake. There are a few short chapters on tea the beverage as well, which are certainly worth a look. Tea as a Beverage considers the origins of the drink, pinpointing it no further than some unknown date in “the Chinese Empire.”

What follows is a brief sketch of the history of tea after it was first introduced into England, a time when it might sell for nearly fifty dollars a pound. The author claims that tea first came into use in New England in about 1720 and goes on to briefly cover tea during the time of the Revolutionary War and some of the tea substitutes used then.

The author claims that the variety of black teas at the time were Bohea, Congou, Campoi, Souchong, Caper, and Pekoe, while the green teas were Imperial, Hyson, Twankay and Hyson. She also remarks on the cheering effects of tea, which are “unanimous” in every country where it is used. And I’m certainly not going to argue that point.

From there it’s on to preparation. Andrews gets it half-right here, remarking that green tea should not be boiled, which is great advice. However, I’d shudder to think what her black tea must have tasted like after it had been boiled for the fifteen to twenty minutes she recommends.

But as long as you’re not adhering too closely to the author’s advice on tea prep this one’s worth a look for yet another glimpse at how tea was perceived in an earlier time. Take a look at it here.

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.

"Easy Knitted Tea Cosies" by Lee Ann Garrett (screen capture from site)

“Easy Knitted Tea Cosies” by Lee Ann Garrett (screen capture from site)

A few months ago in this column I mentioned The Tea Sommelier Handbook, a tome that came out in early 2013 and which was co-written by well-known tea person, Jane Pettigrew. If you need any more proof that the concept of tea sommelier is becoming a thing, then consider that a book simply titled Tea Sommelier was published near the end of that same year.

It’s written by Gabriella Lombardi, who claims the distinction of opening the first shop for quality tea in Milan, Italy. Like so many other tea books, it includes sections on preparing, tasting and serving teas, as well as a selection of recipes and advice on pairing food and tea. Also of note, “a careful examination of 50 grand cru teas—including some of the best-known varieties available.”

Another noteworthy tea person – Babette Donaldson – was profiled here a while back and is probably best known these days for her Emma Lea books, a series of children’s picture books that numbered six at last count. However Donaldson will roll out a somewhat different type of tea book in mid-2014, titled The Everything Healthy Tea Book: Discover the Healing Benefits of Tea.

I’m sure I must have mentioned How to Open and Operate a Financially Successful Coffee, Espresso and Tea Shop in these pages at some point. It’s a book that’s been around for a while but it’s worth noting that an updated second edition is about to be published, also in mid-2014.

I never realized that tea cosies were such a big deal but they are apparently enough of one that they have kept author Loani Prior busy turning out books on the topic. Prior has written several books about cosies thus far, including How Tea Cosies Changed the World, and is about to hit the shelves with another title in late summer of 2014. This time around the “tea cosy knitter extraordinaire” has bestowed a title called Pretty Funny Tea Cosies upon the reading public.

Which is probably more tea cosy books than the market can possibly accommodate – or is it? Apparently not, since yet another title will be rolled out in late 2014. That would be Easy Knitted Tea Cosies, by Lee Ann Garrett.

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.

There is some debate about how old a child should be before they are introduced to the wonders of tea. But you’re probably safe in introducing them to books about tea at any age, no matter how young. One good choice in this area might be the Emma Lea books, a series of tea-themed children’s picture books by Babette Donaldson that number six volumes in all – so far. The latest of these finds its young heroine taking a trip to China. I recently wrote about Donaldson in an article for this site, but for some reason I hadn’t run across this particular series before then.

Emma Lea books

Speaking of books I’ve overlooked, it looks like The Soul & Spirit of Tea falls into that category. It’s edited by Phil Cousineau and Scott Chamberlin Hoyt. It features a foreword by renowned tea person James Norwood Pratt, and was apparently released in early 2013. Billed as 21 Tea-Inspired Essays for the Early Twenty-First Century, it gathers writings from a number of other renowned tea people.

If the editor’s names sound familiar, it might be in relation to The Meaning of Tea: A Tea Inspired Journey, which was a documentary film directed by Hoyt and released a few years ago. As I noted here early last year, Cousineau and Hoyt released a 2009 companion volume to the documentary that included more than 50 interviews with a variety of people from the world of tea. More here.

Last up this time around, is Green is the New Black, by Holly Helt, an American raised in Japan, which has long been something of a hotbed of green tea production. Yes, the green of the title refers to green tea and a description of the books promises that it will take you “across Japan following every aspect of the noble leaf from plant to cup; regales its health benefits; delves into the pottery scene; and shows how green tea is a vital part of the Japanese lifestyle, where exotic teas are delighting sippers from sunrise to sunset.”

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.

While I try to keep up with all of the latest and greatest tea books, it seems that I somehow missed a recent release – The Infusiast: Diatribes From The Devotea, by tea merchant Robert Godden. I won’t say much about it other than to direct you to this review by my Esteemed Editor and to suggest that it win an award for cleverness in titling.

Tea and Treats by Liz Franklin (screen capture from site)

Tea and Treats by Liz Franklin (screen capture from site)

If you’re looking for something a little different to consume along with your tea you might want to give Liz Franklin’s Tea and Treats a try. It “offers 60 recipes matching teas and sweet treats.” The teas run the gamut and the pairings include such matchups as olive leaf tea with pine nut cookies; sweet basil tea with white chocolate and redcurrant brownies; passionfruit and orange tea with sticky oat breakfast bars; and rooibos and vanilla tea with malted milk cookies.

Also on a tea and food related theme, but with a bit of a different spin, is Roy Fong’s Chinese Food & Tea. The author should be well qualified to discourse on the topic, given that he’s an experienced tea guy, owner of a popular Bay Area tea shop who announced not so long ago that he was preparing the join the gradually swelling ranks of American tea farmers.

You might have heard some rumors about tea being good for you. There aren’t a lot of details available yet about Babette Donaldson’s The Everything Healthy Tea Book: Discover the Healing Benefits of Tea but I guess the title is a pretty good indicator of what it’s all about. It’s part of the popular Everything Series of advice and self-help books and the author has also written a number of other books on tea-related topics.

If I’ve got my story straight, chai, as the term is used in India, is synonymous with tea. While the chai that most of us are familiar with, the spiced black tea that probably got its start in India, is more properly known as masala chai. According to the web site of one of the authors, Chai: The Experience of Indian Tea, by Rekha Sarin and Rajan Kapoor, the book will apparently take a look at chai in the wider sense of the word. As the description notes, “It covers the vast panorama of Tea growing areas in India, from Kanchanjunga in Darjeeling to the mystic Nilgiri hills in Kerala.”

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 tea books keep coming. Which is a good thing because this would not be much of a monthly column otherwise. Here’s the latest batch of new and forthcoming titles.

Wine sommeliers have been around for some time now, but the notion of a tea sommelier is a relatively new one. The Tea Sommelier Handbook claims that it “summarizes the most important aspects of tea knowledge and culture,” and is “a book particularly important to people working in a teashop or entrepreneurs starting a new business in this industry.” What’s particularly interesting about this volume, also known as Manual del Sommelier de Té, is that it is a bilingual edition, courtesy of authors Victoria Bisogno and Jane Pettigrew. Already available on Amazon.com.

Chigusa and the Art of Tea (photo from site)

Chigusa and the Art of Tea (photo from site)

How much can you say about an ancient tea jar? If you’re authors Louise Allison Cort and Andrew M. Watsky you can come up with almost 200 pages worth of stuff to say, in Chigusa and the Art of Tea. As the publisher’s description notes, “few extant tea utensils possess the quantity and quality of the accessories associated with Chigusa, material that enables modern scholars and tea aficionados to trace the jar’s evolving history of ownership and appreciation.” This one’s due in early 2014.

How much can you say about tea cozies? Not much, if you’re me. But if you’re author Emma Varnam, you can say quite a lot actually. A one woman factory of books on the topic, Varnam will be releasing Tea Cozies 4 in early 2014. It is said, as was pretty much the case with the previous volumes, that “knitters and crocheters alike will find 30 imaginative and beautiful patterns suited for a range of abilities.”

When it comes to tea, the Japanese are known for a few things – the green tea they produce, the ritualized ceremony that has grown up around the preparation, serving and drinking of tea over the course of several centuries, and their gardens. The latter two of these tend to blend together sometimes. If you don’t believe it you’ll want to take a look at Marc Peter Keane’s The Japanese Tea Garden. It’s a work that’s said to cover “the history, design, and aesthetics of tea gardens, from T’ang China to the present day.”

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.

There is a category of tea book I like to call Tea 101. The exact details vary but these works tend to present background on the history of tea, an overview of the types and varieties of tea and the primary regions in which they’re grown. Some might look at the processing steps tea goes through, steps that vary depending on the type. Most offer advice on how to properly prepare tea and some might even devote part of their page count to recipes that use tea as an ingredient.

The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World's Favorite Drink (image capture)

The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Drink (image capture)

It’s not for me to say whether or not there are enough of this type of book in circulation, but I can say for sure that I’ve run across my fair share of them in the eight years I’ve been writing about tea. One of the latest examples is The Tea Cyclopedia: A Celebration of the World’s Favorite Drink, by Dr. Keith Souter, which was published this year.

Souter’s book follows the Tea 101 template for the most part, but with a few interesting wrinkles. The first of three parts tackles The History of Tea. At six chapters and 40-plus pages it’s relatively short and you can obviously find more thorough looks at the topic. But it’s an interesting overview and about what one would expect for a work like this. One of the highlights here, at least for me, was a chapter that took a quick look at some ancient works about tea, most of them Chinese.

Part Two, Taking Tea, start with a look at the various types of tea and moves on to assorted aspects of tea culture, such as tea tasting, and the equipment and teawares that are part and parcel of tea drinking. Also covered, tea rituals and ceremonies and tea etiquette. An interesting section here, and one that I don’t recall running across before, was one that dealt with a number of tea customs and superstitions. For example, there’s an old English superstition that had people scattering dry tea leaves and salt outside their house to ward off evil spirits.

Part Three, Using Tea, opens with fairly standard chapters on tea cocktails and tea’s health benefits. After that, the author proceeds to switch things up a bit, with chapters that cover tea in literature and telling fortunes using tea leaves. Even more unusual are chapters titled Some Unexpected Uses for Tea (grime remover, etc.) and the quite interesting Fun with Some Quirky Tea Experiments.

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 is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities. We have good and bad tea, as we have good and bad paintings–generally the latter. There is no single recipe for making the perfect tea, as there are no rules for producing a Titian or a Sesson. (Okakura Kakuzo)

Okakura Kakuzō in 1898 (Wikipedia image)

Okakura Kakuzō in 1898 (Wikipedia image)

As noted in my recent article on The Book of Tea – which looked at its many editions – it’s hard to think of a tea book that’s been more influential than this 1906 work. But can you name another book by Kakuzo? Or (without using Google) name one fact about the author that’s not directly related to this volume?

Who was Okakura Kakuzo and what did he do with himself, given that it probably didn’t take a lifetime to write this slim book? The Book of Tea and the other two volumes Kakuzo wrote were published near the end of his relatively short life. Born in 1862, he died in 1913 at the age of 51. Seven years earlier he’d penned The Book of Tea and prior to that wrote his other two books – The Ideals of the East with Special Reference to the Art of Japan (1903) and The Awakening of Japan (1904).

It’s safe to say that Kakuzo’s life was primarily devoted to art. He founded a prominent Japanese arts academy and was affiliated with others, as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston. It’s been a while since I’ve read the author’s best-known book, but based on my recall and a quick re-read recently, it seemed to me was that he wasn’t all that interested in tea. Which sounds odd, given the title of the book. Perhaps I should say that he didn’t seem interested so much in tea as a beverage. Or, as one commentator put it, The Book of Tea “finds its proper place within the series of attempts Okakura made to describe a history of art.”

What Kakuzo seem more interested in was tea as a cultural artifact and as an art form. None of which should be surprising, given his expertise in that field, particularly when it came to Japanese art. In the book, the author makes a number of statement about tea and art, including “like Art, Tea has its periods and its schools” and “thus the tea-master strove to be something more than the artist,–art itself.”

But perhaps the most telling comment about the author’s thoughts comes in his opening statement, “Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism–Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence.”

For more on Kakuzo’s thoughts about art, refer to this lecture he gave at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in the 1890s. For more on Kakuzo, check out this article.

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.

"Home-Grown Tea" by George Frederick Mitchell (image from site)

“Home-Grown Tea” by George Frederick Mitchell (image from site)

It’s been noted a number of times in these pages that the United States has never actually been a hotbed of tea production. But there was apparently enough interest in the topic that in 1907, the USDA released Farmers’ Bulletin 301 – Home-Grown Tea, by George Frederick Mitchell. It’s a brief but interesting work that provides an unusual perspective on tea growing on a smaller scale, for the amateur gardener.

South Carolina’s Charleston Tea Plantation is probably the biggest producer of domestically grown tea these days and Mitchell claims that it was the same region of South Carolina that first saw tea planted in the U.S., in the early years of the nineteenth century. Though a number of the experiments that followed that one seemed to flounder, there was apparently some success at the Pinehurst estate, in South Carolina, where about six tons of tea was produced annually late in that same century.

After sketching this brief history of American tea production, Mitchell goes into some of the nuts and bolts of planting and cultivation, as one might expect from a publication called a Farmers’ Bulletin. Then he moves on to harvesting and curing, devoting sections here to both black tea and green tea. As he notes – a point that may not have been so well-known at the time – “green tea is made from the same leaves as the black.”

Next up, a two-paragraph section on How to Prepare Tea for Drinking. This is fairly standard stuff and there’s not much to argue with except that Mitchell suggests that tea leaves should not be steeped more than once because what’s left after the first steeping is “deleterious” to one’s health.

The author concludes that growing tea at home can be profitable and pleasurable and allow one to forego the dicey adulterated teas that were apparently still common on his day. Among the various unpleasant substances that one could presumably avoid by growing their own tea – “Prussian blue, indigo, turmeric, soapstone, and leaves of other plants than tea.”

Click here for a free digital version of Mitchell’s bulletin.

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 my quest to keep up with the latest and greatest tea books I like to think I’m aware of most of what’s out there or is coming soon. But it appears that one slipped by me. It’s called A Social History of Tea and it’s by noted tea experts Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson. It comes to us from Richardson’s Benjamin Press, which has turned out a number of other fine books on tea.

A Necessary Luxury - Tea in Victorian England (screen capture from site)

A Necessary Luxury – Tea in Victorian England (screen capture from site)

As the publisher’s note indicates, “Jane Pettigrew’s classic treatise on the history of British tea has been expanded and updated with the inclusion of the American tea story told by Bruce Richardson.” Look for it in late 2013.

For more of this social history of tea stuff, take a look at A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England, a work by Julie Fromer that came out about five years ago.

Another one with a British feel, though it too is not exactly in the recent and upcoming category, is Tea at Fortnum & Mason, by Emma Marsden. It’s described as a “beautiful pocket book covers everything from the history of afternoon tea drinking to Fortnum’s relationship with tea. It also presents more than 45 recipes for all types of teatime delight, as well as guiding the reader through the best types of tea to accompany them.”

If you’re looking for kid’s book with a tea theme, you might try Master Davey and The Magic Tea House: Legend of the Blue Tiger. It’s a brief volume by Susan Chodakiewitz and David De Candia, and it tells the tale of a lad who faces off against a tiger (a blue one, of course) in the defense of tea.

Tea, for me, has always been about the beverage and nothing more. But for many others, of course, tea is not just a beverage but an entire gustatory package. For anyone with that definition of tea, the forthcoming National Trust Teatime Baking Book: Good Old-fashioned Recipes, by Jane Pettigrew, might be worth a look. It’s said to be “a wonderful collection of the best recipes for a traditional British tea range from well-known favorites to regional and historic gems that have stood the test of time and will satisfy even the most jaded of palates.”

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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© 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 blog’s author and/or 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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