Best tea books to make you an expert, my personal selections.
Let’s head back to basics today, as in tea basics. I’m writing this review of the seven best tea books that will make you a tea expert with two goals in mind: (1) to share what I’ve learned about tea and (2) 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 under your belt– 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, this review is a space for me to deliver something a little more substantial than tea recipes: knowledge.
I have seven 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. I must confess I actually have a lot more than seven tea books, I can’t seem to help myself. It’s like an addiction!
Best Tea Books Criteria
My criteria for selecting these specific books are twofold: they have to be timeless favorites and must still be available for purchase. Consider this your tea book smorgasbord starting point.
Anyone of these books will teach you some need to know basics of becoming a tea expert. You will learn about your tea options, where tea comes from, how it is produced, how to make tea properly, how to taste the tea and appreciate quality and variety.
You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C. S. Lewis
First, you must open your mind to learning about and tasting the many teas that are available. Believe me, there are many. Keep in mind, 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 just stare blankly at all the tea along the wall. In the end, you will find your tea of choice, despite all the variety.
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 Heisses 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.
by Michael Harney
The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea is a good resource for tea drinkers interested in understanding more than just the basics about tea. This is a solid guide to tea. It covers all the different groups of tea differentiating Chinese green tea from Japanese green tea along with the history behind it.
British legacy teas are comprehensively covered including teas from all the major black tea producing regions of the world. Most of these black teas are the ones popular in the United States.
A brewing and tasting guide is included along with interesting stories from the author’s travels as a tea purveyor.
The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea is a classic reference for the serious tea drinker. The only drawback is the lack of photographs and illustrations.
by Mary Lou Heiss, Robert J. Heiss
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.
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.
by Okakura Kakuzo
I love this book. It is 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 artists and philosophers book as expressed through tea. Okakura defined tea as the Cup of Humanity, beginning as a 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 Zenism. 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.
by James Norwood Pratt
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 recently passed away, and both were instrumental in helping me select the teas for my tea business.
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.
The book reads more like a story and Pratt makes ancient tea history come alive. Of particular interest is the expansion of the British Empire and the monetary motivations behind tea.
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.
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.
by Jane Pettigrew, Bruce Richardson
Jane Pettigrew is a very bubbly and charming person. I met her once at one of the World Tea Expos. Mostly I just love her British accent!
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.
This is a nice reference book for the casual to the serious tea drinker.
by Linda Gaylard
This is a relatively new tea book, having just come out in July 2015 and is the latest addition to my collection.
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.
Upcoming Best Tea Books On My List To Review
There are three books I should own but don’t so I can’t honestly review them here. Yes, there are still tea books I don’t own yet.
by Babette Donaldson
by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, and Jasmin Desharnais
The second edition won Best Tea Book at the World Tea Awards in 2014.
by Lisa Boalt Richardson and Jenifer Altman
by Tony Gebely
I recently received this much-awaited tea book. I must confess I’ve only skimmed it and can’t wait to get the time to sit and really read it. I wanted to add it to my list though because everything Tony writes about tea on his blog is very well researched and provides a great deal of solid information.
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