Stuff Every Tea Lover Should Know, by Candace Rose Rardon
In reading a book it is striking to see how exactly people read a book, and for whom a book like this is written. Before I read this book, someone I know took a look at the book and commented that this book had a lot of good information in it, which it does, but that the cover design was a bit lacking (It is rather simple) and that the book could have used some references that connected it to other books that had recipes in them. As a reader, this book struck me as more or less what someone would expect from a basic factbook about tea that does not demand heavy or serious reading and which can be read a little bit at a time if one does not have to return it to the library in a hurry, as was the case for me. This book lets us know that there are many tea lovers, and it does a good job at pitching material to different groups of tea lovers, giving information to educate and amuse a wide variety of tea lovers while also being rather ecumenical in terms of appreciating those who appreciate tea, which is something to appreciate. If tea is the sort of material that encourages snobbery, it is not a snobbery that looks down on other uses of tea, but rather is an common snobbery of a variety of tea lovers.
This book is a short one at about 150 short pages. The book begins with an introduction. After that comes a selection of material on tea basics, including what tea is, highlights from the history of tea, terms every tea lover should know, the anatomy of the tea leaf, how tea is made, caffeine content, tea tasting, loose leaf versus bagged tea, how to store tea, a note about water quality, tea accessories, types of teapots and how to use them, how to prepare tea, and recommended steep times and water temperatures. This is followed by a discussion of various tea families and common varieties, including black, green, white, yellow, oolong, dark teas, as well as tisanes. The next part is the one that is the most interesting part for me, namely the tea traditions around the world, including ceremonies in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet, Russia, Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, Morocco, Britain, New Zealand, the American South (my native tea tradition), South America, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan. I was surprised at how many of these traditions I knew. After that, the author talks about tea parties, including how to host high tea, a tea party for children, as well as providing a basic recipe for scones and tea cocktails, after which there are resources and acknowledgements.
It is worthwhile to ponder what it is that people should know about tea. Or rather, it is worthwhile to see what it is that authors believe that tea-drinkers need to know about tea in order to intelligently drink it. When people believe that a food product requires an education it is an interesting thing to see the elements of that education. And to be sure, tea does offer plenty of insight when it comes to education. Tea is not essential for life, but it is a product that many of us (myself included) have a great deal of fondness for and drink in large quantities in a wide variety of forms. Tea can be served hot or cold as well as with a wide variety of processing, and in the form of loose leaf as well as bagged, with various degrees of quality and with effects based on terrain. Tea requires drainage and tends to grow best in subtropical but also highland areas. And while tea came from China originally, it has since spread far and wide, and often is said to include various herbal tisanes as well. The complexity of tea makes it a fit area of study in a similar form to viniculture and other complex cultures.