Monday, January 9, 2017
"World Atlas of Tea" by Krisi Smith
Part One focuses on Tea Basics and covers such topics as the tea plant, varieties of tea, and grading of tea. Two entire pages of this section are dedicated to "The Chemistry of Tea," a level of detail I was pleased to find. Part Two, Tea Brewing and Drinking, includes information on brewing basics, tea tools, buying and storing tea, and the health benefits of tea. One particularly helpful item in this section is the "tasting wheel" that gave me some new names for those tea tastes I am not that great at describing. With this new tool at my fingertips, perhaps I can increase my tea vocabulary when I'm reviewing teas this year. Part Three is on Tea Blending, which I'm not interested in exploring, but if you are, there are plenty of tips to get you going.
Part Four, almost half the book, is on The World of Tea, and it's here that this book really finds its value in the tea library. This section includes a vast amount of info on the tea-producing countries, and it was fascinating to read, for instance, that Sri Lanka exports 94 percent of the tea it grows, "the largest percentage in the world." Who consumes the most tea? I've always heard that the Irish do, but Smith says that the people of Turkey actually consume the most tea—on average, more than 10 cups each day. And while I knew that Kenya was a tea-producing country in Africa, I did not realize that Kenya leads the world in exports of CTC (crush-tear-curl) black tea "and makes up 22 percent of the world's exports of tea." The book doesn't include footnotes or a bibliography, but anyone willing to do a little digging should be able to further research any of these topics that inspire—and they will.
The photography in this book is often stunning. Tea fields are a beautiful sight in and of themselves, but to see them at spots around the world is a joy. So are the photos of clay teapots for sale at a market in Hong Kong, a modern tea picker in Sri Lanka, and one of my favorites, that highly decorated teahouse in Iran. I spent several minutes gazing at this photo and trying to identify all the props hanging from the ceiling alone: lamps and globes and prisms and teapots and random glassware and … well, I'll save some of the examining for you. If you're looking for a new book to educate, enlighten, and entertain you about tea, World Atlas of Tea should do the trick.