cover image The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide

Mary Lou Heiss, Robert Heiss, Lou Mary Heiss, . . Ten Speed, $29.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-1-58008-745-2

Purveyors of fine tea, the Heisses’ documentary dexterously weaves through the wars, economic upheavals and embargoes surrounding what was once considered the “elixir of immortality.” Though tea usage may predate written history, evidence suggests that Camellia sinensis ’s invigorating leaves were first cultivated centuries ago in the tea gardens of indigenous minorities in Northwestern China and along the Indian, Myanmar and Tibetan borders. Chinese monks recognized the energizing effects and medicinal value of this evergreen plant and, by touting its benefits, ignited a thirst for tea that quickly spread west via oceangoing tea clippers and along the Silk Road. The famed East India Company flourished, “teatime” became social tradition, and cream and sugar were found to balance tea’s astringency. In this guide, the Heisses outline at length the production process from tea bush to tea cup, along with the nuances of regional varietals like China’s sweet green tea and India’s Darjeeling. An engaging historical and cultural study, this guide is geared toward both novice and consummate consumers intrigued by the world’s 2,000-year-old tea habit. (Oct.)