The best books about tea

5 authors have picked their favorite books about tea and why they recommend each book.

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Tea

By Kevin Gascoyne, François Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais, Hugo Americi

Book cover of Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties

I dip into this must-have book all the time – for pleasure but also to learn and check facts. The four authors own the wonderful tea store, Camellia Sinensis in Montreal, Canada. They are extremely experienced in tasting and selecting teas from around the world for their business and just love sharing their infectious passion for tea and their extensive knowledge of the growing regions, growers, and manufacturers. As well as discussing the most important tea origins, they highlight some of the personalities and industry specialists they have met on their tea journey and whose insights help us understand the day-to-day work of tea gardens and factories. The book also includes invaluable advice on brewing and tasting tea, and the section on tea and gastronomy offers some absolutely stunning recipes for cooking with tea.


Who am I?

I fell into the world of tea by chance in the 1980s when I gave up a career in higher education to open a 1930s style tearoom in southwest London. I grew up in the 1950s in a typical British family that drank tea throughout the day but little did I know, as I baked endless supplies of scones and cakes for the tearoom at 4 am every day, that I would end up writing books and magazine articles, editing a tea magazine for the UK Tea Council, speaking at world tea conferences, training staff in hotels, travelling to almost every major tea producing country, and eventually working today as Director of Studies at the UK Tea Academy.


I wrote...

Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

By Jane Pettigrew,

Book cover of Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

What is my book about?

Teas are produced today in more than 65 countries, including the UK, Europe, Oceania, and North America, as well as better known regions such as India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka and East Africa. However, few people ever get to taste the high quality teas from any of those countries but stick instead to cheaper poorer quality teabag blends.

My book explores every single one of the world’s tea producing regions, giving details of each country’s tea history, the area planted with tea, the terrain, altitudes, producing seasons, tea types, and flavour profiles. With colourful maps highlighting the important tea areas, and beautiful colour photographs of the places, people, and tea rituals of the world, the book takes the reader on a fascinating journey and opens their eyes to the magic of tea and opportunities for amazing taste experiences for anyone who dares to try something different.

The Book of Tea

By Kakuzo Okakura,

Book cover of The Book of Tea

Okakura links Taoist and Zen philosophy to the tangible world by way of the aesthetics of tea, which are actually the aesthetics of life itself.  The title of this slim volume is disarmingly understated, then. It is the most approachable book on aesthetics I know.


Who am I?

I've spent the last three decades thinking about Japanese aesthetics, and in particular if and how they can be meaningfully used beyond Japan. I'm the author of several books on the subject: Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan, Place Time and Being in Japanese Architecture, This Here Now: Japanese Building and the Architecture of the Individual, and most recently, The Constructed Other: Japanese Architecture in the Western Mind. I teach about Asian Pacific architecture at the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa.


I wrote...

This Here Now: Japanese Building and the Architecture of the Individual

By Kevin Nute,

Book cover of This Here Now: Japanese Building and the Architecture of the Individual

What is my book about?

This is the first book to analyze Japanese architecture from a phenomenological perspective, and to explain how buildings can be designed to help us both celebrate and overcome our individuality. It shows how buildings can not only serve as extensions of the body, to effectively help affirm what, where, and when we are, but can also enable us to share the normally subjective experiences of thishere and now with others.

Tea

By John Griffiths,

Book cover of Tea: A History of the Drink That Changed the World

John Griffiths has a talent for bringing history to life so that we are carried along by his storytelling and fluid narrative. We imagine ourselves right there with the characters he describes – the British East India Company and their opium trade with China; the spies and adventurers who brought tales of tea to the west; the merchants who encouraged the trade; and the botanists, politicians, government officials and pioneers planters who risked so much to establish the tea industry in India. Griffiths immerses us is every aspect of the business from its 16th-century beginnings to the famous companies of the 20th century, and along the way, dips into all that lies behind the story of success. Enlightening and fascinating!


Who am I?

I fell into the world of tea by chance in the 1980s when I gave up a career in higher education to open a 1930s style tearoom in southwest London. I grew up in the 1950s in a typical British family that drank tea throughout the day but little did I know, as I baked endless supplies of scones and cakes for the tearoom at 4 am every day, that I would end up writing books and magazine articles, editing a tea magazine for the UK Tea Council, speaking at world tea conferences, training staff in hotels, travelling to almost every major tea producing country, and eventually working today as Director of Studies at the UK Tea Academy.


I wrote...

Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

By Jane Pettigrew,

Book cover of Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

What is my book about?

Teas are produced today in more than 65 countries, including the UK, Europe, Oceania, and North America, as well as better known regions such as India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka and East Africa. However, few people ever get to taste the high quality teas from any of those countries but stick instead to cheaper poorer quality teabag blends.

My book explores every single one of the world’s tea producing regions, giving details of each country’s tea history, the area planted with tea, the terrain, altitudes, producing seasons, tea types, and flavour profiles. With colourful maps highlighting the important tea areas, and beautiful colour photographs of the places, people, and tea rituals of the world, the book takes the reader on a fascinating journey and opens their eyes to the magic of tea and opportunities for amazing taste experiences for anyone who dares to try something different.

A Thirst for Empire

By Erika Rappaport,

Book cover of A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

There is no shortage of great books on the history of tea, but this one is my favorite because it is a global history of how a commodity, rather than a people, conquered the world. Carefully researched and engagingly written, the book begins its story in the seventeenth century, when China controlled the trade and Europe was a distant secondary market. The book then moves through tea's history—from exclusively Asian drink to staple at the heart of English identity—and the consequences for the planet and human history.


Who am I?

I am a Professor of History at Texas A&M University and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.  I teach and research broadly in the histories of Britain and its empire, North America, and the Atlantic world. I am the author of four books, including Making Headlines: The American Revolution as Seen through the British Press and The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812. I am especially fascinated with how imperialism shape colonizers’ cultures.


I wrote...

Eating the Empire: Food and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain

By Troy Bickham,

Book cover of Eating the Empire: Food and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain

What is my book about?

When students gathered in a London coffeehouse and smoked tobacco; when Yorkshire women sipped sugar-infused tea; or when a Glasgow family ate a bowl of Indian curry, were they aware of the mechanisms of imperial rule and trade that made such goods readily available?

In Eating the Empire, Troy Bickham unfolds the extraordinary role that food played in shaping Britain during the long eighteenth century (circa 1660–1837), when such foreign goods as coffee, tea, and sugar went from rare luxuries to some of the most ubiquitous commodities in Britain—reaching even the poorest and remotest of households. Bickham reveals how trade in the empire’s edibles underpinned the emerging consumer economy, fomenting the rise of modern retailing, visual advertising, and consumer credit, and, via taxes, financed the military and civil bureaucracy that secured, governed, and spread the British Empire.

Tea in China

By James A. Benn,

Book cover of Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History

This is the book I had been waiting for and was so delighted when it appeared. It provides a fascinating and sweeping account of the meaning of tea in Chinese culture from its earliest appearance to the late imperial period. Benn has a wonderful eye for examples and delicious details that illuminate how religion, art, poetry, class, and gender created a commodity and culture that travelled around the world. A great place to start if you are interested in the history of tea or China.

Who am I?

I grew up in Los Angeles, the mecca of global consumer culture. I became a historian to escape from what I saw as this shallow, surface culture but through my work, I have returned to the mall. My work uses history to show how consumer desires are not natural. Instead, I ask why people consume particular things in particular places, and I show how they attribute meaning to the things they buy. I am not a specialist on China but while researching and writing on tea's global political economy and consumer culture I became fascinated by how China contributed to the making of global tastes, desires, and material culture. These books illuminate the history and cultural life of tea, opium, porcelain, and other things within and beyond China.


I wrote...

A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

By Erika Rappaport,

Book cover of A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World

What is my book about?

Tea has been one of the most popular commodities in the world. Over centuries, profits from its growth and sales funded wars and fueled colonization, and its cultivation brought about massive changes—in land use, labor systems, market practices, and social hierarchies—the effects of which are with us even today. A Thirst for Empire takes a vast and in-depth historical look at how men and women—through the tea industry in Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa—transformed global tastes and habits and in the process created our modern consumer society.

An expansive and original global history of imperial tea, A Thirst for Empire demonstrates the ways that this fluid and powerful enterprise helped shape the contemporary world.

The Greatest Gresham

By Gillian Avery,

Book cover of The Greatest Gresham

For comfort reading, I like period children’s stories, as written by, say, E.Nesbit, Noel Streatfield, Richmal Crompton. Childhood seems to have been more fun when it came up against the constraints of an adult society more formal than our own. Gillian Avery’s achievement was to write spirited historical children’s stories that have all the social nuance you would find in the above authors. The Greatest Gresham (written in 1962, set in the 1890s) is about the timid children of one family who are brought out of their shells by the bolder kids next door, and it all feels just right. For instance, when the mother of the timid children is out on her ‘calling’ (or visiting) day, they always have tea with the family maids, one of whom habitually reads their fortune in their tea leaves. 


Who am I?

Most of my novels are historical, and they include ten books set on the railways of the early 20th Century featuring Jim Stringer, a railway policeman. I am romantically drawn to that period: no mobile phones, no fluorescent light or man-made fibres – and plenty of smoke and steam available for atmospheric effects. If you really did travel back in time, you would think you were hallucinating, so I take a visual approach, providing a series of images that I hope are historically accurate whilst also having the force and originality of dream scenes. It seems to me that the writers on my list take a similar approach. 


I wrote...

The Necropolis Railway

By Andrew Martin,

Book cover of The Necropolis Railway

What is my book about?

This - the first in the series of ten novels featuring railwayman Jim Stringer - is set in 1903. Jim, an unworldly young man who aspires to be an engine driver, is lured from Yorkshire to London, to work on the London & South Western Railway. After moving into a lodging house amid the viaducts around Waterloo Station, he finds himself working on the ‘half link’. This is the roster of men who operate the trains carrying corpses and mourners to the huge Brookwood Cemetery, forty miles outside London, and all his colleagues seem to be harbouring a secret, possibly relating to the mysterious fate of Jim’s direct predecessor as the junior man on the Necropolis run...

Dungeon Crawler Carl

By Matt Dinniman,

Book cover of Dungeon Crawler Carl

See, I told you I wasn’t only going to recommend British duos!

This is where I tip my hand as a long-time gamer. Dungeon Crawler Carl is in the GameLit genre, which means it blends gaming elements into the story. Sometimes this is done in a very stat-heavy way (which is fine if that’s your jam!) but in DCC, the stats are on the lighter side. It leans into the gaming aspects when Earth gets thrown into utter chaos, followed shortly by being thrown into an actual dungeon, which is also a game show. Matt creates a cast of genuinely funny characters and then throws them into the wackiest situations. It’s hard not to laugh at the insanity of it all, and just when you think it can’t get any crazier, it kicks it up another notch. It takes itself just the right amount of seriously, which makes it…


Who am I?

There’s always time for a good laugh, the kind that makes your beverage of choice try to escape out your nostrils. There’s something magical about a book that can make you laugh, because comedy is so personal to each of us. I have a very strange sense of humour. It’s an odd hybrid of British sarcasm, Australian swearing, and Canadian self-deprecation. Because of this, when I find something that clicks and genuinely makes me giggle, I won’t shut up about it. I’ll tell the postman, the pizza delivery person, the police officer who keeps telling me to put trousers on when I’m out in public. Now I’m telling you!


I wrote...

Level Up

By Craig Anderson,

Book cover of Level Up

What is my book about?

Level Up tells the story of what happens when reality breaks and starts following video game rules. Marcus finds himself thrown into familiar situations that poke fun at gaming tropes, all whilst trying to figure out how he can win the game and level up. 

Also, there’s a squirrel called Nutsack. If you stifled a snigger at how immature that name is, you’re the target audience.

Ways to Welcome

By Linda Ashman, Joey Chou (illustrator),

Book cover of Ways to Welcome

So often we address the “what” and “why” but not the “how.” Ways to Welcome is all about the “how.” Just how can we make others feel included? I love the specific examples in this book—from waves, smiles, and “hellos” to cups of tea, bouquets of flowers, and retrieving a lost hat. We even see ways we can welcome dogs, bees, and birds. The rhyming text is buoyant, and the illustrations are bold and bright. This book positively exudes warmth!


Who am I?

I’ve published many books for children, but this one is truly special. The Everybody Club is a collaboration with my dear friend Linda Hayen in memory of her daughter, Carissa. As a child, Carissa started a real-life Everybody Club. The first members were toys, dolls, the family cat, and her brothers, one of whom had severe disabilities. Carissa died in a car accident at the age of 16, and this book is Linda’s way of sharing her daughter’s generous spirit with the world. A note for adults at the end of the book shares this backstory.


I wrote...

The Everybody Club

By Nancy Loewen, Linda Hayen, Yana Zybina (illustrator)

Book cover of The Everybody Club

What is my book about?

The Everybody Club is a feel-good rhyming read-aloud. It's a book with plenty of heart and a powerful message: We belong. Every one of us. Join in the fun and see what the Everybody Club is up to in this catchy, joyful romp for young readers!

Taking Tea with Mackintosh

By Perilla Kinchin,

Book cover of Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston's Tea Rooms

The story of Britain’s tearooms is often thought to have begun in London but it was Stuart Cranston and his sister Kate in Glasgow who were responsible for opening Scotland’s first public tearooms. This lovely book explores the very beginnings when Stuart Cranston’s decided to install a few tables and chairs at his tea retail store in 1875 so that customers could taste teas before buying. Kate followed suit but added her own distinctive style by employing Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife to design the now world-famous Willow Tea Rooms. The charming story links inextricably with tea, Glasgow, art, design and business and, since the original Willow on Sauchiehall Street has now been totally renovated and refurbished in Mackintosh style, Kinchin’s book is particularly valuable.


Who am I?

I fell into the world of tea by chance in the 1980s when I gave up a career in higher education to open a 1930s style tearoom in southwest London. I grew up in the 1950s in a typical British family that drank tea throughout the day but little did I know, as I baked endless supplies of scones and cakes for the tearoom at 4 am every day, that I would end up writing books and magazine articles, editing a tea magazine for the UK Tea Council, speaking at world tea conferences, training staff in hotels, travelling to almost every major tea producing country, and eventually working today as Director of Studies at the UK Tea Academy.


I wrote...

Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

By Jane Pettigrew,

Book cover of Jane Pettigrew's World of Tea: Discovering Producing Regions and Their Teas

What is my book about?

Teas are produced today in more than 65 countries, including the UK, Europe, Oceania, and North America, as well as better known regions such as India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka and East Africa. However, few people ever get to taste the high quality teas from any of those countries but stick instead to cheaper poorer quality teabag blends.

My book explores every single one of the world’s tea producing regions, giving details of each country’s tea history, the area planted with tea, the terrain, altitudes, producing seasons, tea types, and flavour profiles. With colourful maps highlighting the important tea areas, and beautiful colour photographs of the places, people, and tea rituals of the world, the book takes the reader on a fascinating journey and opens their eyes to the magic of tea and opportunities for amazing taste experiences for anyone who dares to try something different.

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi,

Book cover of The Tea Party in the Woods

The Tea Party in the Woods is an homage to Little Red Riding Hood, but with a twist. Kikko sets off to bring her grandmother a pie and comes upon a magical tea party in the woods where all of the woodland creatures politely welcome and share their spread. Instead of being a victim of a cautionary tale, Kikko’s grandmother applauds her bravery in traveling on her own. The woods, by the way, are not scary or dangerous at all.


Who am I?

I love the outdoors, and there are so many benefits to playing, imagining, and being outside. I grew up on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario, so I spent much of my growing years playing outdoors and enjoying the natural world. When I became a professional educator, I read the research about the very concrete benefits being outside every day has on young learners. Bring on the recess! Books have a way of sparking action. When we read about how someone else enjoys the outdoors, it makes us want to do the same. Books are inspiring.


I wrote...

Salad Pie

By Wendy BooydeGraaff, Bryan Langdo (illustrator),

Book cover of Salad Pie

What is my book about?

Maggie is determined to make Salad Pie at the playground—alone. But then Herbert appears. He wants to play. Maggie resists. Herbert watches and waits. Maggie’s imagination flourishes with the attention. Then, Salad Pie tumbles down, Herbert saves the day, and an unexpected friendship begins.

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