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Book Review: The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss

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The Tea Enthusiasts Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas is the guide any tea lover needs to read. It contains an informative introduction to tea that will enlighten the reader about the glorious world of tea, where tea comes from, and how tea is manufactured and cultivated. The reader will learn why tea is unique and the various subvarieties and cultivars of the Camellia sensesis (tea) plant.

Chapter One introduces the reader to purchasing tea. It discusses what factors should be considered when purchasing tea including price, rarity, grade, leaf style, and taste. The author encourages evaluating a tea’s soundness including all three aspects of tea in three phases: dry leaf, tea liquor, and wet leaf after steeping. To learn to identify and evaluate tea, name, class, country, grade, and other pros and cons of each tea should be considered. Both single garden and blended teas are discussed and the merits of each are presented. There is also an informative chapter on new teas versus aged teas and the different grades of teas.

Chapter Two discusses how to steep the perfect cup of tea. It presents the different aspects of the tea experience including amino acids, tannins, alkaloids, volatile compounds, vitamins, and minerals. Both eastern and western methods for steeping teas are offered, including single and multiple steepings. Many things can influence the quality of your cup of tea including how it’s steeped, the amount of tea used, water quality, water temperature, and steeping time.

Chapter Three presents the six different classes of tea including green tea, yellow tea, white tea, Oolong tea, black tea, and Pu-erh tea. For each variety, the authors list the specific types of tea along with detailed information about where it comes from, its flavor, how to steep it, etcetera. There is a picture of each type of tea leaf as well as what it looks like steeped. You can also learn about tips for purchasing, the best way to steep it (measurement, time, quantity, water temperature), where the tea comes from, what the role of the tea is in its country of origin, how it’s harvested, and lots of other interesting information.

This is really one of the most informative tea books I’ve ever read. Not only is it informative, but the color photographs throughout the book make it feel like you’ve really stepped into the a tea merchant’s shop in China or a tea garden in India. This would make a great gift for the tea connoisseur in your life.


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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.