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.


  1. I have heard of some of the interesting facts you highlighted, but, whew! I'm glad you read and reviewed the book instead of me! I am too old for the college text book-type books. Give me the ones with pretty tea party pictures! *LOL* Thanks for the review!

  2. Angela...Hercule Poirot always referrs to his hot beverage as a "Tisane."

    Looking it up in Encarta (French to English--although Poirot quickly points out that he is NOT French but Belgian)the translation reads:
    feminine infusion; (herb-)tea.

    In English it seems to read:

    herbal beverage: an infusion of leaves or flowers used as a beverage, for example, an herbal tea

    [14th century. Via French from, ultimately, Greek ptisanÄ“ “barley water” (see ptisan).]
    Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2005. © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

    So regardless, tea of some sort.

    I just LOVE seeing Poirot drinking his TISANE out of the Russian train tea glass holder (whatever it is called--I WANT one!)

  3. Hi! I love your blog~ I also have a blog celebrating Tea, among all things I love that are French, and a few other fancies that I enjoy like tablescapes and outdoor garden tea parties with people (and pets sometimes too). I'm a B&B owner wannabe someday! I think teatime is absolutely the most fun anyone can have! I have a high tea scheduled here at my home for two later today. I look forward to following your blog! ;) ~CC Catherine from "Catherine de th`e Cup" tea blog.

  4. Sounds like it was worth wading through this book for all the interesting tea facts you gleaned.

  5. I agree with Linda J. BUT......I think I still would like to read it for all the facts. Thanks for sharing.


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