Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tea and Books Saturday #32 - "Tea: East and West"

Tea: East and West
Edited by Rupert Faulkner
V&A Publications, 2003

In 2000, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London staged the exhibition "Ten Truths About Tea," and this book of essays by various authors was published as a result of the exhibit. The chapter on tea in Japan includes a passage from a 1692 "History of Japan" by the German physician Engelbert Kaempfer. Three different methods of infusing tea are described. The first is simply infusing the leaves in hot water. The second is grinding the tea leaves into powder and then mixing this powder with hot water. The third is "a perfect boiling, which goes further than a simple infusion, and is used by the vulgar and Country people, who drink of it all day long." I don't imagine the "vulgar and Country people" cared what that author thought about their method of tea preparation!

In the chapter on tea in Russia, Iran and Turkey, I learned that in the 1900s tea was grown on domestic tea plantations in Georgia, which of course caught my attention since I live in a different Georgia. And in the 1920s, Turkey's tea industry was started with seeds imported from Georgia as well. That's fun stuff to know!

The book does a good job of presenting an overview of tea growing and tea drinking around the globe, but forget all that. The real reason to get this book is the amazing photographs and illustrations it contains! There's a photo I don't believe I've seen before of tea hunter Robert Fortune, and there are great photos of tea being enjoyed in various settings around the world. It's really amazing to see photos of tea in production in 1891 in Sri Lanka, photos from the V&A's collection. There are also lots of teaware photos which I bet will make you, like me, sorry you never saw this exhibit for yourself: 12th and 13th century Chinese tea bowls, a copper and brass Monastic teapot from Tibet, a green tea caddy I never would have guessed was a caddy (looks like a bottle to me), and THE most exquisite tea caddy I've ever laid eyes on, featuring rolled paper (or quilling) designs and embroidery on wood. My, my, my! There is much to admire in this book, and the combination of history and great images is one you really don't want to miss.


  1. oh, that sounds like a fabulous book. I am going to add it to my wish list right now.

  2. Sounds like an interesting book. I have just added it to my collection. Thanks for the review.

    Visiting the V & A Museum would be a dream come true, wouldn't it?

  3. Sounds like a great exhibit. Too bad we both didn't get to see it.

  4. Another book I haven't seen. You must have quite a library of tea books.


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