I read A LOT of books throughout the year. I try to write about the tea related ones that really stand out here but sometimes they get lost in the shuffle, amidst tea reviews and everything else going on. This is one of those books.
It had been on my Amazon wishlist for a while but I finally bit the bullet nearly three years ago. The author is the owner of Bellevue, WA tea establishment Smacha. An introduction by tea industry favorite James Norwood Pratt was also a big selling point.
The first thing that struck me was the photograph heavy layout of this book. Rather than relying on words, the author lets the pictures tell the story. I found the pictures of the mountains where the teas are grown particularly stunning. There is some text of course, but only just enough to explain what is happening.
The reader really feels like they are along for the ride as Jason travels through Fujian and Guangdong. I really enjoyed that the focus was on two specific teas, Tie Guan Yin and Phoenix Mountain oolong. Although they are the same type of tea, the differences between the two are highlighted in an easy to understand way. Everything from terroir to production methods is covered in detail.
Most of the content is about where and how the tea is made but there is a small guide to brewing at the end of each of the sections. My one qualm with this book would be here. Directions are given for yixing clay teapots, western style teapots, and the tea brewer that the author created. There is no mention of gaiwans or other brewing methods. This section definitely could have used more in-depth information, particularly for those that are new to tea.
Nearly all of the books on tea that I have read take a very generalist approach, trying to cover a vast world in just a few hundred pages. There is just too much there for tea nerds to really be able to dig in on a particular subject. For that reason, it was refreshing to read something so specialized. This is a book that even those who aren’t interested in tea will find interesting.
You can find out more about this book here.