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Tea: Aromas and Flavors Around the World - Review

The Rise of the Tea Sommelier

by Lydia Gautier

 

 

Tea: Aromas and Flavors Around the World by Lydia Gautier

A good wine book has a way of making us want to relax, swirl wine around in a glass and become transfixed by the lazy whirlpool of colors and aromas. Tea, by Lydia Gautier, has the same effect, only swirling hot tea in a mug is not highly recommended. This beautiful tome is not only a guide to the history and appreciation of tea, but an art book and a cookbook as well. Gautier, an agricultural engineer and one of the founders of the École du Thé at the Palais de Thé in Paris, covers the history of the world’s favorite leaf, including legends, timelines, origins, and different ways tea has been enjoyed throughout the centuries. Recipes that include “Tea with Salted Butter” (as people from the mountains of Yunnan still prepare it), “Maccha Cake” and “Seafood Poached in a Japanese Sencha Green Tea Broth” show the versatility and epicurean qualities of the beverage. Tea also includes descriptions of the plant itself, the beneficial properties of the brew, preparation tips and types of tea.

What makes this book enjoyable is the sincerity with which Gautier treats tea. Her prose is scientific yet artistic, informative yet passionate, and she gives this delicate, gourmet drink a status similar to the best of wines. However, the connection to wine does not end there. Similar tasting notes and aromatic families can be found in both tea and wine (although aromas like “wildcat”, “mildew” and “oyster” would be unexpected in either). There’s even a chapter, “The Subtle Affinities of Tea,” which describes the similar culture, consumption and history that tea shares with wine (as well as with coffee, chocolate and perfume.)

There is a point in the lives of all wine-lovers where the drink is no longer simply white or red, and the same goes for tea. As you delve into this world of brewing and tasting, never again will you be choosing between black or green, but teas that are oxidized or semi-oxidized, flavored with woody notes or fruity notes, grown in India or China. Instead of trying to figure out whether to add milk or sugar, after reading Tea, you may refuse both, and your debate instead will be whether to pair your Vintage Pu-erh with red meats or caramelized desserts.

After your exploration of the world of tea, make sure to page through the final chapter, which contains addresses of specialty tea rooms and fine merchants where you can find this worldly beverage. As Lydia Gautier ends her foreword, “Enjoy your trip; enjoy your tea!”

Reviewed by Laurie Hartzell

 


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(Updated: 06/01/11 BH)

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