Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties
a book review
I am new to the tea game, so I don’t actually know much about the ubiquitous brew. It was only a few years ago, that I was introduced to the world of traditional, Chinese, loose-leaf tea by a coworker — more on that story here. And since that introduction, it’s been a downhill slide of obsession. (I have a cabinet overfilled with teas to prove it!) I think what’s so compelling about tea is its wide spectrum of flavors, some subtle, some strong, all from one leaf — camellia sinensis (its scientific name).
Tea and its various incarnations are not well known in the United States. Green tea and earl gray are considered somewhat exotic. And most of what is sold at popular chain shops are fruity, flavored teas, which only proves that we like fruit, but aren’t quite sold on the whole tea thing. But this is slowly changing with the proliferation of dedicated tea shops that specialize in traditional Chinese teas. Much the same as coffee, which has benefited from waves of renewed interest over the years, tea is also going through a time of renewed interest and expansion. One of these new-wave tea shops in Montreal, Canada is called Camellia Sinensis (like the leaf). I’m singling them out for this review because the owners wrote the excellent book Tea: History, Terriors, Varieties.
If you are new to the world of Chinese teas, or are curious to learn more, Tea: History, Terriors, Varieties is not only an informative resource but also beautifully laid out with gorgeous photos (see the image at the top of this article). The book provides thorough descriptions of the various methods of tea processing, answering questions like: What is the difference between white tea and green tea? or What is yellow tea and why is it so rare? or What’s the difference between sheng and shaw pu er tea? In addition to Chinese teas, the book also has information about tea grown in Japan, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, and Africa. The book also contains shorter sections on tea tasting notes, teaware, tea & gastronomy (the least interesting to me), and tea & health (which includes some fascinating labratory data).
As I hinted earlier, I highly recommend this book for all tea-nerds and tea-nerd wannabes.