Saturday, May 8, 2010
Tea and Books Saturday #19 - "Book of Tea"
Book of Tea
By Annie Perrier-Robert
Hachette Illustrated, 2004
This book was originally published in France in 1999, but happily this 2004 edition was published in Great Britain so we English readers can understand it just fine. I remember coming across this book by happy accident at a Barnes and Noble about the time it came out, and I was surprised I'd never heard of it. The author is a specialist in gastronomic history and has written 20-plus books. What I love about this one is that it covers a lot of tea territory while including a heap of tea photos and illustrations I've never seen before.
In the section on tea and tea bushes, I learned about the "imperial" picking of tea, a bit of tea history new to me. "As its name suggests," says Perrier-Robert, "the 'imperial' picking was reserved for the emperor of China and involved the removal of only the terminal bud. It was carried out on one single day each year, at sunrise, between the end of the February moon and the beginning of the March moon. The pickers -- young virgins -- had to wash their hands seven times before slipping on silk gloves and cutting using golden scissors. This ritual has long since disappeared." (I should hope so!)
The book features thick, glossy color pages, and the photographs and images are elegantly presented. Line drawings of ladies in Victorian era garb are simply charming, and the color photos of the tea bushes being plucked are sharp and clear. There are quite a few vintage tea advertisements, and I greatly enjoyed seeing those. There are lots of tea quotes scattered about the book, often by someone French, so it was nice to read quotes I haven't seen many times before. Like many other tea books, this one does a good job of presenting the basics of tea history and gives a beginner's guide to selecting tea, but the quality of the artwork is really what makes this book a standout. If it's not in your tea library and you appreciate tea-themed art, this book is definitely worth seeking out!