Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Review of 19 Lessons On Tea

I downloaded the Kindle version of this guidebook by 27Press from Amazon. I don’t actually own a Kindle, so I also downloaded a reader app for the PC. Both were free at the time. Yeah me! The softback book normally sells for $7.99. The Kindle version is $2.99. The book is 118 pages. It is an easy read. I read it in one sitting.

This is a basic primer that also covers some ground often left out of other books. It starts at the beginning explaining what tea is, where it comes from, and how the leaves become tea. None of this is overly deep or technical and it doesn't need to be to inspire a little awe and respect for the leaf you are steeping.

It expands from there with a chapter on each basic types of tea – green, white, yellow, oolong, black, and puerh. It covers what makes each type different and lists some of the major variations within each category. The yellow tea chapter is a nice addition, as it often gets neglected.

There are also chapters on specialty tea (blended and flavored) and even herbals. Though not technically tea, I find the inclusion of herbals makes for a more rounded discussion without being critical of those calling it tea.

There is a chapter covering how to brew. Others cover teapots, accessories, how to buy, and more. It really covers a lot of ground in a little space, and it does it well for the most part.

One area where I find it falls short is including opinions on whether to add milk, honey, or lemon to each category of tea. This is a personal call. If you enjoy white tea with additives, what does it matter to someone else? If you never add anything to Irish Breakfast, as long as you enjoy it who cares? It is your cup. Enjoy it as you please. I could understand it the authors had simply stated that traditionally one would prepare a tea a certain way, and left it open to personal tastes. One size does not fit all.

The authors did make some errors in the book concerning caffeine.  They perpetuated a couple myths that are repeated often. The first is in the chapter on white tea where it is stated white tea has "lower levels of caffeine than any other type of tea." In truth, some white teas have quite high caffeine levels. It varies from varietal to varietal.

The other error concerns a decaffeination myth. Despite what is claimed, steeping for 30 seconds, dumping the cup down the drain, and then resteeping does not remove the caffeine. It does pour a perfectly good cup of tea down the drain. Caffeine is released throughout the useful steeping life of the leaf. If you want a decaffeinated tea, you will have to buy one specifically processed to remove the caffeine. You cannot rinse it out. Repeating the myth does not make it true.

Overlooking the few trouble spots, this is an enjoyable read. It is clearly written and well thought out. My advice is save a tree and $5 and opt for the ebook version.

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