Book title: Modern Tea
Subtitle: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage
Author: Lisa Boalt Richardson
Photographer: Jenifer Altman
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Suggested retail price: $19.95
“Modern Tea: A Fresh look at an Ancient Beverage” is Lisa Boalt Richardson’s third book about tea. Her first was “The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far,” a very interesting volume about tea in various cultures including China, Russia, Iran and several more. The second was “Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea,” a book that revamped the idea of the traditional tea party in ways that had never before been imagined.
“Modern Tea” may be her best book yet. Beyond being a simply a book about tea, it is a book that helps the reader understand not only the facts about tea, but achieve a better appreciation of tea and why so many people passionately love this beverage.
She begins with the most basic information of all, by defining tea. This may seem like a simple task, and if one begins and ends with the idea that tea is the product of the plant known as Camellia sinesis, it is.
But that is not all there is to it for the world is full of a vast variety of teas, not only in terms of the six classes of tea, but also in terms of where they come from, how they are grown and how they are processed. Even the reader who knows more than average about the subject of tea will learn from this book.
In the following chapter, Richardson explains how to buy, steep and store tea, but also goes a step beyond and explains how to taste tea. Yes, there is a method to tasting tea, something even some longtime tea drinkers may not realize.
The chapter Tea Ceremonies and Rituals goes beyond detailing the use of tea in various cultures, some of which you might not expect. Richardson relates the stories of these practices in a way that gives some insight into the cultures using them.
In the chapter Beyond the Cup, she writes about other ways tea can be used such as cooking, smoking foods, in cocktails and in healing.
The last chapter, The Buzz about Teas, discusses all the new terminology we read not only about tea but nearly everything we consume these days: sustainability, fair trade, biodynamic, etc. These terms are relatively new to tea and something that tea drinkers may see in advertising or on packaging that they may not fully understand.
One of the most charming things about the book that throughout there are little sidebars in pastel patches. Some of them come from Richardson’s own personal experiences with tea. These little personal reminiscences actually serve in helping the reader connect with the author in a way that reveals her individual relationship with tea.
Modern Tea is an absolute must-have book for anyone who is a tea neophyte or a true tea lover. It is highly detailed yet as easy to read as a novel. It is a book you will want to read through at least once then keep around for reference in the future.