Wednesday, April 29, 2009
"The True History of Tea"
Last night I finally finished a new book I've been reading for the past few weeks, "The True History of Tea" by Victor H. Mair and Erling Hoh. I must confess I nearly quit at several points along the way. This was at times such dense reading I felt I was stuck reading a college textbook. I'm glad I finished it, however, because I learned a lot about tea's rich history, including the parts I really wasn't that interested in (pretty much everything that occurred before the discovery of English Afternoon Tea).
That said, here is some of the noteworthy tea trivia I gleaned along the way:
-- "Tsiology = the art and science of tea." (I've never come across that word before. Have you?)
-- A chapter on "The Tea and Horse Trade" says that "in 1078, one Tibetan horse cost 100 catties of Sichuan tea."
-- John Wesley, founder of Methodism, debated what he thought was the "sinfulness of tea-drinking" and for 12 years gave up the habit, but later resumed tea drinking "on the advice of his physician" and had a half-gallon teapot made just for him by Josiah Wedgwood.
-- After the war, George Washington ordinarily had tea at both breakfast and supper at Mount Vernon.
-- Mao Zedong rinsed with green tea rather than brushing his teeth.
The book also has some great photos I've not seen before, including the first English silver teapot and a photograph from 1840 said to be the first-ever photograph of a tea party. So while this book is not exactly light reading, I still find it valuable as a reference book (there's a nice index) and will no doubt turn to it again in the future.