My love for tea started at a young age. Being born in the South, and having at least six generations of family before me being Southerners it could be said Sweet Tea runs through my veins.
In 2005 I started Sweet Tea Junkie as a social media joke simply to see how many “Sweet Tea Junkies” I could find on MySpace. The joke was apparently on me because within a few months I had over 8,000 followers and a business was born. We began as a “tea shirt” company and until 2012 that is all we did. 2012 is the year that I began doing research on tea and what it would take to produce our own line of Premium Southern Style Teas. A year later with research, and sourcing complete we officially launched our line of Handcrafted Teas with four distinct flavors (Southern Style Black Tea, Mango Black Tea, Pomegranate Green Tea, Organic Green Tea).
It was in the research of 2012 that a great passion for tea sparked in me, over the following years it has only grown as I have learned more about this amazing beverage and the plant it comes from. In my learning I often joke that I must be one of Amazon’s favorite customers with all of the tea books that I have and continue to buy. I know that some of you are as passionate about tea as I am and with that I would like to share with you my recommended books for tea lovers.
Listed in the order that I read each of these books.
I usually buy a few tea books at a time and read them as they arrive so there is no special method to this list, I just read them as I get them.
365 Things Every Tea Lover Should Know
This is a book of quotes, quick tips and short stories. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and easy enough to read through in just a few days. I picked my copy up at the Charleston Tea Plantation and over my next few days in Charleston had read through the entire book. This would be a good book to start with if you want to learn more about tea but aren’t much of a reader due to its ease.
The True History of Tea
Very detailed book, early on my head was left spinning a few times trying to keep up! This was likely due to the fact of this being one of the first real books on Tea that I read. As the book progressed though I really fell in love with it. This has to be one of the best researched tea books I have come across, and with a name like “The True History of Tea” I suppose it should be. Absolutely a must read if you are either a tea or history buff or both.
Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties
I really love the effort put into this book. I feel like my tea knowledge was expanded greatly during the course of reading it. The size of this book and the great pictures would make it a perfect coffee (or tea!) table book. Towards the end there is some research that the authors had done by a lab into the components of tea that is quite surprising. Did you know that some white teas (the most delicate of all teas) contain more caffeine content than some black teas?!
For All the Tea in China
This is the story of Robert Fortune, a botanist that was hired by the English East India Company to pose as a Chinese tea buyer and thus gain the secrets of tea growing and manufacture. Before Mr. Fortune the secrets of tea were closely held by the Chinese and outsiders were simply not welcome to learn them. A great book if you want a quick read full of history and intrigue! I’d love to see this made into a movie.
The Tea Drinkers Handbook
The Tea Drinkers Handbook is similar in style to Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. It features a list of the top 50 teas on earth, known as “Grand Cru Teas” as well as a wealth of information on tea growing regions. I found a few inaccurate statements while reading (ex. “Steep your tea, then pour out the first cup and re-steep will decaffeinate your tea.” This statement has been found to be untrue.) I believe the inaccuracies are simply due to this being a few years old and newer information has been released. Well worth the read though.
Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting, and Blending Teas and Tisanes
This book mostly focuses on non-teas, showing ways to grow and then dry various herbs to brew into tisanes. The section on tea is good and covers everything from growing your own tea at home to harvesting and processing with other general information sprinkled in. If you are considering growing your own tea this is definitely a good book to pick up for the instructional value alone.
The Social History of Tea
I have to admit that this wasn’t my favorite tea book, however I place it on this list because It is a deep book. Covering the entire social history of tea you’ll end up learning a lot of the “social” details of tea throughout time. It is well written and researched, and I would certainly say that I did end up learning quite a bit that I simply wouldn’t have if I didn’t read this book. If you’d enjoy taking a look into the lives of the people who drank tea throughout history and its impact on society as a whole over time then this book is for you.
The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea
Written by Michael Harney, one of the most knowledgeable tea connoisseurs on the planet. This book guides you through the various types of teas in each of the major tea growing Countries in a clear and easy to understand way. Mr. Harney shares some of his tea tasting knowledge along the way helping even a novice tea drinker to improve their discernment for fine teas. A good read!
The Classic of Tea (Ch’a Ching)
The Tea Classic, Classic of Tea, Ch’a Ching.. this book goes by so many names perhaps from the various translations over time. It was originally written by Lu Yu the great Tea Master in the year 780. The historical value of this book for tea lovers is priceless, it is as if you are stepping back into time reading it. Absolutely a recommended book for tea lovers.
All About Tea
Written in 1935 by William H. Ukers this book is composed of Two Volumes and 1153 pages in total. It is the most complete work on tea that I have ever seen. Nearly every tea book written (and almost every other book in this list) pull sources from All About Tea. While the casual reader can jump into many of the other books I have listed, All About Tea is for the absolute Tea Nerd. The kind of person that looks at an 1153 page tea book and gets excited. Be prepared to open your wallet for this book, I looked everywhere I could find for over a month and still ended up paying $115 for a new copy of this book (used copies were the same price) on AbeBooks. If you live in a college town, or bigger city your local library may have this book available for free use.
I will be adding to this list of recommended books for tea lovers as I read more tea books that I find quality enough to include. If you have any suggestions of books for me to read please include them in the comments, I’d love to check them out!
Photo Credit: Robert Claypool (https://www.flickr.com/people/35106989@N08/), Edited By: Sweet Tea Junkie