I’m big on history, it was always one of my favorite subjects growing up. Taking a step back into the past to see how things were done at different points in time can be quite fascinating, and gives you an idea into how and why things were done. My love for tea has certainly meshed with my love for history as I’ve scoured a variety of sources seeking out the best vintage tea books, many written in the 17-1800’s.
To gain the direct perspective of the tea farmer or plantation owner during the time of the British Empire’s rule over much of the tea growing world brings their stories alive. To learn the early techniques from planting to growing and experimentation are great foundations for building a deep knowledge of the tea industry.
Chemistry and Agriculture of Tea (Including The Growth and Manufacture) – 1893
By Montague Kelway Bamber
Written in 1893, this book explains in depth the chemical and physical processes in the cultivation and manufacture of tea, mostly from a perspective of Indian Grown tea. It was written for planters of this time period to assist in all aspects of growing; from planting, fertilizing, plucking and more. At just over 300 pages long this book is loaded with information that I have absolutely enjoyed reading. To read a 100+ year old book on the Chemistry and Agriculture of Tea means I must be a real tea nerd!
Tea Culture (The Experiment in South Carolina) – 1899
By Charles Upham Shepard
Today in South Carolina, not far outside of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island sits the Charleston Tea Plantation. It is as of 2015 the largest tea plantation in the United States and quite an amazing place to visit. The tea plants at the Charleston Tea Plantation hold a rich history that winds its way to the 1800’s when tea growing was first being experimented with in the United States and South Carolina specifically. This book is a quick read at under 50 pages and gives a great insight into the early attempt for an American tea industry.
If you plan on visiting the plantation in the near future this book is a great read.
Observations on the Tea and Window Act – 1784
By Thomas Twining
Written by Thomas Twining (of Twining Teas) in 1784, this book runs about 70 pages long and was probably more of a pamphlet at the time written than a book. It is simply as the title states an Observation by Mr. Twining on the Tea and Window Act (as he called it), or the Commutation Act. This book discusses the taxes placed on tea by the British government and their effects on smuggling and the legal trade of tea. I read this book online as it is available for free, it is a nice insight into the tea industry in the closing years of the 1700’s.
All About Tea – 1935
By William H. Ukers
I like All About Tea so much that you will find it also listed in our Recommended books for tea lovers post. This book was written in 1935 so it’s quite new compared to the other books in this listing. William H. Ukers composed All about Tea in Two Volumes totaling 1153 pages. I haven’t found a book that goes more in depth on nearly every aspect of tea and its history than this. Mr. Ukers spent an immense amount of time researching and pulling all of the pieces together for this project in an age when you couldn’t ask Google or Siri for help. He instead sent out numerous requests across the globe for research documents.
One of those requests to purchase research documents, dated April 17, 1929 and signed by Mr. Ukers himself recently came up for auction and I was able to purchase it! Again, tea nerd stuff sorry!
I will be continually adding to this page as I find more great vintage tea books worthy of being called “The Best.”