Saturday, April 17, 2010
Tea and Books Saturday #16 - "Tea"
By Irene Chalmers
Potpourri Press, 1978
Big things come in little packages sometimes, and that's the case with this 50-page paperback. It may be small but it does have chapters, interesting information, and some charmingly homemade illustrations (by Maceo Mitchell). There's the usual information on tea history and production, but as always I learned something new from reading this book. In a section on the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chalmers writes, "The tea house was originally built entirely of natural materials and constructed in such a manner that a single blow would return the structure to the earth from which all the elements had come." If I ever build a tea house, that most certainly will *not* be my design philosophy!
Since I love to come across information on U.S. tea history, I was intrigued to read this: "The first attempts to establish tea commercially began in 1775, when a French botanist successfully raised a few bushes in South Carolina. Later, in the mid 1800s, more attempts were made and horticulturalists began plantings in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee. However, none of these enterprises were successful and the crops were subsequently abandoned." I really *must* consult my historian friend about researching where tea was grown in Georgia! (And I'd love to know about the other states mentioned as well, except for South Carolina, about which we already know quite a bit thanks to the work of the Charleston Tea Plantation.)
Like every author of a tea book or article, it seems, this author points out that herbal teas aren't really "tea" at all and are frowned upon by tea drinkers. But (there's always that "but") they do acknowledge that some folks like them. Chalmers says that "Pliny claimed that mint stops hiccups, clears the voice before making a speech and is the specific antidote for a sting from a sea serpent." Almost makes you want to get hiccups in order to try this, doesn't it? (But I'll pass on the sting from a sea serpent.) Another interesting note about this book is that it was published "in cooperation with Gill's First Colony Coffee and Tea." I'd never heard of that firm (have any of you?), but I did a search and discovered their interesting web site here. How odd that I should discover their site thanks to a 32-year-old book!