Ambitious, detailed and almost ruthlessly comprehensive, The Story of Tea resembles a thick history or science tome dispensed by a high school or college on the first day of term. With its tables, sidebars and well-spaced spattering of images, this book could easily be the backbone of Tea 101—and a pretty groovy class it would be. The authors, who became tea devotees through the operation of their Massachusettsgourmet foods shop, have created a volume that’s part history, part manufacturing treatise, part travelogue, part anthropological field book (yak butter tea with Tibetan nuns, anyone?) and part cookbook (on second thought, try the Green Tea Chiffon Cake With Walnuts and Crystallized Ginger). And that’s discounting the glossary and buyer’s guide.
Despite producing a niggling worry that there’s going to be a quiz, The Story of Tea is a thoughtful, thorough look at a beverage in full bloom. Its textbook-like meticulousness makes it a terrific buy, the informational equivalent of 2-(or 10-)in-1 shampoo. It’s also essential reading for any School of Tea freshmen who have aspirations of becoming true scholars.