Saturday, May 15, 2010
Tea and Books Saturday #20 - "Tea: Blends, Origins, Rituals"
Tea: Blends, Origins, Rituals
By Rob Alcraft
Top That! Publishing, 2003
Years ago I was in a local bookstore and came across this book which was part of a gift set. The boxed set from "Top That!" includes a small red teapot, two small cups and saucers, and the book "Tea: Blends, Origins, Rituals" by Rob Alcraft. This set appealed to me as a tea collectible, but I never got around to reading the 128-page book, assuming it would be pure, if pleasant, fluff. Happily, I was quite wrong. The book was fun to read, had lovely photos, and I learned quite a few things I've not come across before.
First, there was a tea personality who was new to me. In a chapter on "Europe's First Tea Drinkers," the Dutch, the author writes of the physician Cornelius Decker. "Dubbed Dr. Good Tea, he advocated drinking between 40 and 50 cups a day, more if it could be managed." You know how tea rooms sometimes offer an "Anna, Duchess of Bedford Tea" in tribute to the founder of afternoon tea? Perhaps one could order a really big, bottomless pot of tea and call it the "Dr. Decker Tea." (Have any of you heard of him?)
There is a terrific section on some of the most popular teas, and I enjoyed reading the profiles and seeing the sharp, clear photos. What I learned: That English Breakfast Tea is really more Scottish than English, having first been blended by an Edinburgh merchant. The popular Scottish tea made its way to London where it was eventually sold as English Breakfast Tea. Earl Grey Tea, I learned, usually contains that nasty Lapsang Souchong, but Twinings' blend of Earl Grey does not contain Lapsang Souchong. No wonder I like it so well!
There is a brief section on the tea ceremonies of Japan, China, Russia and Korea. Alcraft writes that in the Chinese tea ceremony, "Each cup is filled only halfway—the rest of the cup is believed to be filled by friendship." Isn't that lovely! (Although, my group of tea friends would tell me to please think again if I passed them a half-filled teacup!) The book also has info on tea gardens and a few tea recipes. If you ever see it, with or without the tea set, it's definitely worth getting—and reading!