The best tea books to help you become a tea expert in 2020 are still the classics. Here are a few of my favorite selections.
Let’s head back to basics today, as in tea basics. I’m writing this review of the ten best tea books that will help make you a tea expert with two goals in mind:
- To share what I’ve learned about tea.
- To provide you with access to some of the best tea books all in one place. Then we can chat more about TEA!
Today we dive into the world of tea books. Because before our beloved tea became a beverage, it was a leaf. With some basic knowledge of how tea is made you will know more than most people.
Who doesn’t yearn for that kind of expertise?!
Whether that is the super nerdy chemistry of tea or simply a favorite tea, these tea books deliver something a little more substantial.
I have ten books in my tea library that I constantly go back to. These are not only my personal favorites but are also the favorites of other tea enthusiasts.
Best Tea Books
My criteria for selecting these specific books are twofold:
- They have to be timeless favorites.
- They must still be available for purchase.
Any of these books will teach you the "need to know" basics of becoming a tea expert. You will learn about your tea options, where tea comes from, how tea is produced, how to make tea properly, how to taste the tea, and appreciate quality and variety of tea.
You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." - C. S. Lewis
Open your mind to learning about and tasting the many teas that are available. Just realize, you can read all you want from a book but you can’t really know tea until you taste it!
This will simply guide you the next time you walk into a specialty tea shop and stare blankly at all the tea along the wall. In the end, you will find your tea of choice, despite all the variety.
The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard
The Tea Book is perfect for beginners. It is a relatively new tea book, having just come out in July 2015.
First, let me say the illustrations are beautiful and abundant. The moment I opened the book I was very impressed with the visuals.
The Tea Book concisely tells the history of tea along with the different forms of tea. Each country is separated and chronicled by the type of tea grown there. Tea traditions from around the world are depicted including their ceremonies and blends.
The chapter on tisanes is a nice feature. Most tea books do not cover them in depth since tisanes are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant. An impressive twenty-nine herbs and their benefits are included so they may be blended with traditional teas or consumed on their own.
Steeping notes and eighty-eight step-by-step recipes are offered at the end inviting us to explore all the various ways tea can be enjoyed. I truly enjoy this book.
Best Books On Tea
The Story of Tea by Mary Lou Heiss, Robert J. Heiss
Everyone calls this the bible of tea books. And it is. The Story of Tea was nominated in 2008 for a prestigious James Beard Book Award and an IACP Cookbook Award. It was awarded Best Tea Book in the USA from Gourmand Awards, Paris, France, and also won the bronze for Best Tea Book in the World in 2008.
I refer to this book as a textbook on tea. It is not the type of book you read from cover to cover like a novel, although you could. It’s 417 pages are more of a reference book where you select a topic of interest and read that chapter.
The book begins with a history of tea and ten chapters later culminates in cooking with tea. The authors take us on a fascinating tour through the world of tea, from the delicate green tea of China to the full-bodied Assam black tea of India.
The husband and wife team offer an insider’s view of every aspect of the tea trade. The Heiss's profile more than thirty tea varietals and provide an in-depth guide to tea territories, production, brewing, and tasting.
Many beautiful pictures are peppered throughout the book including photographs of tea producers and their farms. Chapter five includes a nice encyclopedia of thirty-two different teas.
The latest research on the health benefits of tea is covered while sharing ancient and current knowledge of how tea is beneficial for maintaining health and vigor.
The final chapter includes ten recipes for cooking with tea incorporating tea as a versatile seasoning. I’m seriously thinking about making the green tea chiffon cake with walnuts and crystallized ginger. Dessert first!
A beautifully illustrated and comprehensive book that does not disappoint.
The Tea Enthusiasts Handbook by Mary Lou Heiss, Robert J. Heiss
The Heiss's have two wonderful books on tea. This is a handy little pocket guide, in size and scope. It is straightforward and factual. A helpful reference source while exploring the world of tea.
The book covers the six main classes of tea; green, yellow, white, oolong, black and Pu-erh. Many of the teas discussed are single teas and not blends and would only be found in high-end tea shops such as their own Tea Trekker shop.
None the less, it is a handy book to have to cover very specific types of teas, including how to buy, store, and steep tea, along with detailed tasting notes. If you are very new to tea it might be a little overwhelming. I would place this book in the advanced category. An excellent reference for the serious tea taster.
History of Tea
For All The Tea in China by Sarah Rose
If you really want to know about tea, you should know the history of tea and how it came into the western world. This book has become a favorite of mine. It tells the fascinating true story of tea espionage as it was carried out by the British East India Company. Robert Fortune, the Scottish Botanist was sent undercover to China on a mission to steal China's closely guarded secrets on tea growing and production.
In 1848, most Chinese territories were forbidden to foreigners. Robert Fortune disguised himself as a Mandarin and traveled deep into the Wu Yi mountains, the center of tea production, to discover their horticultural secrets.
For All the Tea in China is the amazing story of Fortune's journeys deep into China and his tea smuggling adventures. Fortune engaged in the ultimate corporate espionage sealing the fate of empires.
It's well written historical storytelling.
New Tea Lover's Treasury by James Norwood Pratt
This book reads more like a story and Pratt makes the history of tea come alive. Of particular interest is the expansion of the British Empire and the monetary motivations behind tea.
Pratt is clearly in love with tea and it shows in this book. He appreciates tea like a wine connoisseur appreciates wine, perhaps because he was one before he switched over to tea. But he understands tea with all of its history and nuanced legends.
A prized book, it’s divided into two parts: The Romance of Tea and The Treasury. The Romance of Tea covers the history of tea from its inception, while The Treasury goes into some interesting specifics of tea including tea types and how they came about.
I don’t know James Norwood Pratt on a personal level, but I have spoken to him many times about tea when I first started my tea business. He worked very closely with Devan Shah, who sadly passed away. Both were instrumental in helping me select the teas for my tea business.
The New Tea Lover’s Treasury is an interesting and informative book written with humor, knowledge, and loving enthusiasm for a simple cup of tea that’s not really so simple after all.
Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, and Jasmin Desharnais
The second edition of this book won Best Tea Book at the World Tea Awards in 2014.
I recently purchased this book and discovered an amazing chapter on tasting tea. If you’re looking for a book with a more comprehensive tasting guide, this book has a very nice tasting guide with a flavor wheel included. I've not seen this in any other tea book.
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The book was written by the owners of Camellia Sinensis Tea House in Montreal. They import teas directly from tea producers.
The book details tea, tea history, and tea cultivation in great detail. A wonderful tea book, I would categorize it as advanced learning for the tea aficionado.
The Book of Tea
The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo
The Book of Tea is a classic. I love this book. It's more about the philosophy of tea, which is what makes it so very special.
The original text of The Book of Tea was first published in 1906. I have the 2011 edition with an introduction by Bruce Richardson who is the author of many tea books.
Okakura was a Japanese philosopher who became one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. He is credited with bridging Western and Eastern cultures. He spoke English as well as Japanese, making him capable of expressing the nuances of tea as practiced by the Japanese.
At the turn of the century, Okakura became the Director of Asian Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Tea became a metaphor for interpreting Japanese art and spirit.
The Book of Tea is an artist's and philosophers' book as expressed through tea. Okakura defined tea as the Cup of Humanity, beginning as medicine and growing into a beverage. Tea eventually became an expression of the way of life in the Asian world.
The Book of Tea chronicles how this came about through art, Teaism, Taoism, and Zen. Tea masters elevated tea to an art form, reflecting on the simplicity of life through a cup of tea. It's about art, philosophy, spirituality, meditation, design, gardening, architecture and yes – tea.
It’s a very special book.
Tea Sommelier by François-Xavier Delmas, Mathias Minet
Tea Sommelier is authored by the owners of Palais des Thes, another one of my favorite tea shops. The Tea Sommelier is a wonderful book especially if you are looking for a simple guide to tea and tea pairings with food.
The Tea Sommelier has many colorful illustrations, posters and charts, and step-by-step guides. A very easy and inspiring read. A great reference book if you work in the hospitality industry.
Tea and Books
The New Tea Companion by Jane Pettigrew, Bruce Richardson
The New Tea Companion is a brief and comprehensive guide to the production of tea, the types of tea and the grading of tea. It includes chapters on the newest information about tea and health, tea production, tea blending, and tea hospitality.
The Tea Directory section is a guide to 80 world teas. Each one is beautifully pictured as a dry leaf, wet leaf and an infusion describing the character and brewing guides for each. This directory covers teas from the nine major tea producing countries. The description of every tea growing region and the specialty of each country is well covered.
Jane Pettigrew is a very bubbly and charming person. I met her once at one of the World Tea Expos. Mostly I love her British accent!
This is a nice reference book for the casual to the serious tea drinker.
Cancer Hates Tea by Maria Uspenski and Dr. Mary L. Hary
Cancer Hates Tea was a finalist for Best Tea Publication 2017 World Tea Awards in 2017. Author Maria Uspenski is the founder of one of my favorite tea shops The Tea Spot.
Uspenski helps the reader understand the biology of the human body at the cellular level and how cancer affects it. She explains the healing power of tea, backed by 5,000 scientific studies, leaving the reader with a feeling of control over their own wellness. The book inspires the reader to overhaul old beverage habits.
Related: Cancer Hates Tea: A Book Review
Most people don’t write about tea solely as it relates to cancer. But it did get my attention. You don’t have to have cancer to read this book. It’s an amazing story of tea with wellness references backed by studies along with many wonderful recipes throughout the book.
There are many more tea books out there I don't own. What are your favorite books on tea?
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