Sunday, April 15, 2007

Book Review: "Tea"

Commodity histories are in vogue these days (although nobody's yet written the one I really want to read, about cranberries); tea has been the subject of at least a few recently and also forms the basis for Laura Martin's Tea: The Drink That Changed the World (Tuttle Publishing, 2007).

This was an enjoyable, quick overview of tea's place in world culture, from the advent of its use in early China, Japan and Korea through its rise in popularity as a trading commodity as it came into fashion in Europe and America. Martin also includes information on the processing, brewing and marketing of various sorts of tea and how the beverage has evolved over the centuries into the version we know today.

The lack of citations, an index and a full bibliography bothered me, but as a casual examination of tea this was a worthwhile read. I learned a great deal about tea processing and varities, and the discussion of the current tea-growing industry around the world was enlightening. This is a nice book for a rainy weekend afternoon ... with a nice cup of hot tea at your side.


Francesca Thomas said...

I don't drink tea, so it has not changed my world. Have you read the novel called "The Coffee trader"? Its set in Holland when coffee was first introduced to Europe. A very good novel about futures & commodoties trading in coffee. Very similar to the real tulip commodoties craze. I also just got the book Tulipomania.

JBD said...

I have read "The Coffee Trader," and enjoyed it very much. The other two David Liss books ("A Conspiracy of Paper" and "A Spectacle of Corruption") are also excellent historical fiction. I haven't read "Tuliomania" yet, but it's on the list of things to watch for. Let me know what you think of it.

Rachel said...

"I don't drink tea, so it has not changed my world."

I really don't understand that comment. The goings-ons in the world both today and in history are complex and interrelated. That statement seems rather like, "I don't vote, so politics don't affect me." And though some people might think of tea as weak coffee or flavored water, the tea trade was a huge, international deal not too long ago.

Me, I can't go a day without good Chinese tea!