Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tea and Books Saturday #24 - "Tea Chings: The Tea and Herb Companion"

Tea Chings: The Tea and Herb Companion
By The Republic of Tea
Newmarket Press, 2002

While I love Republic of Tea's offerings and am a happy customer of this company, I've always found their "Minister of Tea" and "Republic of Tea" shtick a little hokey, and I feared this book might be more of same. Not at all! With the exception of a couple of brief paragraphs in which the writers couldn't help themselves and lapsed into a commercial for the company, I found this quite an enjoyable and entertaining read. I'm aware that by reading so many tea books this year I'm bound to come across the same information sometimes. If that information is accurate, well-written and entertainingly presented, though, I'm OK with that. And such was the case with this book.

I learned quite a few tidbits in "Tea Chings," such as how to pronounce the tea puehr ("POO-air" -- and take a tip from me and don't overthink that, OK?). I like puerh, so I was intrigued to learn how it is made: "After the tea is harvested, it is withered like black and green teas. Then, still slightly moist, it's heaped into piles, where a natural bacterium in the leaves creates a reaction (rather like what occurs in a compost heap). The piles are constantly turned and carefully monitored to prevent excessive heat or moisture." Who knew! I'm glad I'm already a fan of puehr, otherwise that "compost heap" analogy might be a bit scary!

Something I've seen in no other tea book is a roundup of tea idioms, those little expressions we love to use such as "not my cup of tea," which, surprisingly, is said to be American in origin. Others: "A nice old cup of tea" is British for "a dear person." ("She's a nice old cup of tea!") In Germany, "Let the tea steep" means "Let sleeping dogs lie." And have you ever wondered about that term "teetotaler"? According to this book, it was "invented by English prohibitionist Robert Turner in an 1833 speech urging listeners to be 'tea drinkers totally.'" I'd always wondered about that! (Although ... why isn't it spelled "teatotaler"?)

I loved reading that tea drinkers often have better health habits than the rest of the population. Also in the section on tea and health I read of something new to me, the BRAT diet: "For years, mothers have known that the BRAT diet -- bananas, rice, applesauce and tea -- is an effective home remedy for diarrhea." I'm not a mother, but those of you who are ... have you heard of the BRAT diet?

About half of the book is devoted to herbs, which in my current state of gardening bliss I particularly enjoyed. There was information on herbs and history, herbs and health, and herbs used in making tea. I found it interesting that at the time the book was written, Stevia was apparently being sold only as a dietary supplement and was banned by the FDA from being sold as a sweetener. Happily, that has changed and today I see Stevia everywhere. Reading this part of the book definitely made me want to add more herbs to my garden.

For a book I didn't expect to like all that much, this one was a real charmer!


  1. I was always told the BRAT diet stood for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
    That's what the doctor always told me. Those were the things most tolerated when you would add food to a recovering child's diet---however, I like tea better. LOL

  2. I have heard of the BRAT diet, even before I became a Mom. I'm not sure where I heard about it. I've heard the T as toast or tea, depending on who was ill.


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