Story of Tea

Two hundred and forty-six years ago, the Sons of Liberty dumped imported tea in protest of British rule, and this week's review traces the history of the hot beverage

The story of tea : a cultural history and drinking guide

by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss. Ten Speed, 2007
417p, 1580087450 $29.95, 9781580087452 $29.95

The title of this volume is too modest to accurately describe this impressive, comprehensive overview of the plant and the beverage. Not only does the book include a cultural history and drinking guide, but also a veritable Linnaean taxonomy of bushes, varieties, styles, methods of manufacture, and even a chapter titled “An Encyclopedia of Tea.” The reader learns about the importance of tea in world history, though mostly from a distinctly British point of view, through sketches of the British East India Company, the Boston Tea Party, and the Opium Wars. Other topics include brewing methods, tea customs and culture, health benefits, ethics of the tea trade, and cooking with tea. Recipes include Spicy Oolong-Smoked Duck Breasts and Lapsang Souchong and Jasmine Tea Ice Cream. Authors Mary and Robert Heiss, who are tea merchants with an unbridled admiration for the plant and the beverage, also take readers on a journey along the “Tea Trail,” examining teas of the Orient from China and India to Southeast Asia. Of particular interest is the discussion of terroir, the distinctive soil and climatological characteristics of a geographical region that give teas of those regions their distinctive tastes.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers.
Reviewer: D. M. Gilbert, Maine Maritime Academy
Subject: Science & Technology – History of Science & Technology
Choice Issue: Mar 2008