Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Book Review - The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook

Tea Enthusiast's Handbook: A Guide to the World's Best Teas

Authors: Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Publisher Description:

Did you know that tea is the most widely consumed beverage on the planet after water? Or that all of the world's tea originates from only three varieties of a single plant? While a cup of tea may be a simple pleasure for most of us, there are a dizzying number of tastes from which to choose. And every tea, whether a delicately sweet green tea from Japan or a bracing, brisk Darjeeling black, tells a story in the cup about the land that nurtured it and the tea-making skills that transformed it. 

In this authoritative guide, veteran tea professionals Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss provide decades of expertise on understanding tea and its origins, the many ways to buy tea, and how to explore and enjoy the six classes of tea (green, yellow, white, oolong, black, and Pu-erh). Additional advice on steeping the perfect cup and storing tea at home, alongside a gallery of more than thirty-five individual teas with tasting notes and descriptions make The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook a singular source of both practical information and rich detail about this fascinating beverage.

My Review:
I recently went to the library. I walked out with an updated library card and this book. The library is in a small town of about 5,000 people. I really never expected to find anything tea related.

Right up front let me say this is probably not the best book for a beginning tea drinker. This is a book written, as the title says, with the enthusiast in mind. Once you move away from the grocery store shelves and start noticing and caring where your tea comes from, then you are more likely to benefit from this handbook.

I found myself engrossed from the very beginning of the book on through to the end. What the authors had to say about terroirs and cultivars and their affect on the flavor of tea was fascinating. The very basic differences between eastern and westerner brewing techniques are covered. The six types of tea - green, white, yellow oolong, black, and puerh - are discussed in enough detail to help the enthusiast think about and appreciate the leaf in the pot, and how it is processed.

Herbals are not covered at all – this is a book about tea. Flavored teas are limited to jasmine teas. I must say I gained a whole new appreciation for jasmine dragon pearls which is already a favorite. There are reviews of some 30 different teas. Interwoven in the text are some explanations of terminology that I found exceptionally helpful. There is also information on what to look for when buying and helpful how to's on storing when you get your leaf home.

The one point where I really felt a stumble was at the end of the last chapter. I get to the bottom of the last page expecting a conclusion or a wrap up to the book. I turn the page only to find the glossary. It felt very abrupt. I guess the decision was made to leave them wanting more.

This is a worthy read. The work and art involved in bringing tea to the cup goes far too unnoticed by most of us. Having the process explained adds a new level of understanding that only increases my delight in my favorite beverage. As my experience increases with time, I would be interested in reading this again to see what further nuggets I might find.


  1. Great review. I will have to see if I can get this book on the Kindle. Thanks for sharing it on Steepster. :)

  2. Sounds like a good book, not sure why I don't combine my love of tea and my love of reading more often. Thanks for sharing!