Monday, July 30, 2018

An absolute must-read: "Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea"

To my great delight, a copy of Hoffman Media's lavish new tea book, Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea, showed up unbidden on my doorstep recently, and friends, I have to tell you that I am absolutely in love with this book!

I've never seen such a lovely tea book before, especially one so large (10 x 12 inches and an inch and a half thick) and with two (count 'em, two!) ribbon bookmarks. Splendid design on someone's part. And those aren't even the book's most impressive features in the great scheme of things. The real treasure in this book is all of the fascinating information, ranging from sections on the history of tea to its harvesting, oxidation, and fermentation methods and more. I was familiar with some of this information, but in reading this book, I learned there is still a heap more I have to learn about the wide, wide world of tea.

The lush, colorful images are a delight to behold, but this is much more than a picture book, and I was stunned by the amount of new information I came across. I shouldn't have been surprised, but it seems that most tea books give an overview, at best, of the world of tea, and this one goes into so much detail that my inner tea nerd was just beside herself. Are you one of those who likes to know about the chemical composition of tea? How it best grows? How the terroir (natural environment) of the tea affects its flavor? I adore that stuff, and this book is jam-packed with tea teachings I've never read anywhere else. Note the image at upper right, above. It's illustrating how the tea plant on the left has a weaker root system than the plant on the right. Why? The one on the right was grown from seed, the one on the left from a cutting. Fascinating!

And while I've seen differing lists for the various categories of tea, Pettigrew says there are six:, white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and dark. "Dark" teas include puerhs. "Dark tea" is new terminology to me, and I'm happy to have it, along with Pettigrew's extensive explanations (with charts, above) of how each category of tea is processed.

The book includes maps of all the tea-growing regions of the world, and I was happy to note that here in North America, the South is well represented. (We ought to get *something* in exchange for all this heat and humidity, right?) And see that little tea leaf graphic in northwest Georgia? Do you know where that is? Well, I'll tell you. It's at Dunaway Gardens here in Newnan, a historic property just 12 miles from my house, and while I knew Dunaway has been growing tea for a while, I was surprised and oh-so-proud to see it included in the book!

Of course, North American tea growers are only a small section in the book, and the larger tea-growing regions (Guangxi Province in China is shown here) get their due as well.

I felt as if I were opening a surprise on every page as I came across treats like this image showing machines that make matcha. Some more of my favorite tidbits from the book:

• In Taiwan, Oriental Beauty tea gets its unique flavor from some "leafhoppers" that bite the leaves, "causing the plants to produce enzymes to defend themselves and provoking oxidation in the leaves before they have been plucked."

• While I'm familiar with bricks of tea, I'd never before seen "logs" of dark tea like some attributed to Hunan Province in China.

• In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Camellia Forest Nursery grows a pink-flowering camellia sinensis plant. (Yes, I want one!)

• I wish I'd known this when I was in Italy a few years ago, but there is an experimental camellia plantation in Tuscany that has been growing tea since 1760!

• The section on Darjeeling tea in India was especially intriguing and indicated that the tea industry there is much larger than I had imagined (52,000 permanent employees, 15,000 during plucking season!). I also found it interesting that "local knowledge is crucial [to Darjeeling's tea plantations], and expert tea makers tend to remain in a particular region for the duration of their working life because the skills required to produce good teas there are unique."

Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea is now available through Hoffman Media and on Amazon, and if you don't have it yet, or at least have it on your wish list, I highly recommend you get a copy and settle in with the biggest cup of tea you can find!


  1. Great review of a book that looks wonderful! I'm so glad they sent it to you to enjoy and review.

  2. Wow, that sounds like a great book to have. And I love ribbon bookmarks!
    --from Vernon in DC

  3. Sounds great. I’ll see if the library has it.

  4. It's a WONDERFUL book every tea lover should have in their library. Your review of it is excellent.


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