Book Review- Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties

by Jason Walker on August 23, 2012

in Voices of Tea

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Considering the increasing number of books about tea being produced it would be easy to jump to the conclusion this one offers nothing new. But that would miss the point of work of the team at the Camellia Sinensis Tea House and their Tea: History Terroirs, Varieties.

One of the major contributions of the work is its simple elegance. It is straightforward and orderly in its presentation. That is not to say it doesn’t cover useful details about teas. The book shows the true colors of its authors- experienced tea house owners who have made an art of guiding neophytes into the world of tea with skill and clarity. At the same time, the authors give enough information so that new tea drinkers admire their new-found treasure without being overwhelmed.

The title may not sound flashy, but the book delivers what is promised. The main 150 page section looks at different tea producing countries. History of the country introduces each section, followed by an overview of the tea industry within that country. Terriors and regions of the country come next. Coverage often includes brief profiles of tea professionals of the country. Next come details about the cultivars used, along with how teas are processed. Preparation methods are included, like how to use a gaiwan, a Japanese kyusu pot, or a tea tasting set.

There are examples of teas from each country as well. ¬†At this point, the book might begin to look a little like an extensively descriptive menu. Many of the teas are those the authors know well, having developed relationships with growers over many years and offering those same teas in the Camellia Sinensis Tea House. But even if the authors didn’t actually carry the teas in their own store, they still choose classic representatives of teas from each location.

There are other, smaller but valuable sections of the work. Master chefs have contributed artful recipes that employ tea to wonderful effect. There are also brief sections on tea preparation using various teaware, and a short tasting guide. The overall tasting guide process includes a handy aroma wheel and lexicon of descriptors. The merits of these incline the reader to overlook the diagram of the flavor receptor regions of the tongue. Researchers have become less convinced that tastes are limited to specific glossal zones.

The single greatest contribution of the book to the tea world is the Tea and Health section. Camellia Sinensis Tea House sent their teas to TransBIOTech to analyze caffeine levels, antioxidant levels, and catechin levels in their teas. This section is not only a treasure of information but a beauty to behold. Graphs and charts that are easy to follow. And the information effectively breaks the myth that all white teas are higher in caffeine than all black or green teas.

I forgot to mention the book is an artistic beauty as well. Full page, crisp photographs capture the tea and atmosphere of each place.

Rich and clear information, beautiful images, and solid science. A book not to be dismissed.

Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings.
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