21 books directly related to tea 📚

All 21 tea books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties

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

Book cover of Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties

Why this book?

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.

The Book of Tea

By Kakuzo Okakura,

Book cover of The Book of Tea

Why this book?

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.

Tea: A History of the Drink That Changed the World

By John Griffiths,

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

Why this book?

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!

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

Why this book?

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.

Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History

By James A. Benn,

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

Why this book?

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.

The Greatest Gresham

By Gillian Avery,

Book cover of The Greatest Gresham

Why this book?

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. 

Dungeon Crawler Carl

By Matt Dinniman,

Book cover of Dungeon Crawler Carl

Why this book?

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 all the funnier. All hail Princess Donut!

Ways to Welcome

By Linda Ashman, Joey Chou (illustrator),

Book cover of Ways to Welcome

Why this book?

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!

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

By Perilla Kinchin,

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

Why this book?

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.

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi,

Book cover of The Tea Party in the Woods

Why this book?

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.

Vainqueur the Dragon

By Maxime Julien Durand,

Book cover of Vainqueur the Dragon

Why this book?

This book takes the fish out of water trope I just spoke about in a whole different direction. In Vainqueur, it’s not so much a fish, as a hungry shark that finds itself out of its usual element. 

A dragon wakes up from a lengthy nap and finds that the whole world is now an RPG-style game. It can level up, gain abilities, and accept quests. Thankfully, it’s a bloody big dragon, which makes some of the quests a tad easier to complete.

The dragon really steals the show and behaves exactly as you’d expect a grumpy old murder machine might. The book has wonderful dialogue and a fresh perspective on some of the genre tropes. It’s a nice easy read, with the perfect amount of groveling minions.      

Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another

By Kate Humble,

Book cover of Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another

Why this book?

This is a book for people who like to come home to a steaming mug of tea after a long walk in the countryside – rain or shine. Kate Humble takes us with her on her walks through the year, both at home and abroad. Her descriptions of the Wye Valley make you want to put on your wellies and walk out the door, dogs in tow, ready to splash through puddles, hop styles, and walk beneath the trees and the clouds. It is a lovely reminder that it is so often the little things in life that can bring us the most happiness: muddy walks in the woods, chatting to friends over a pot of coffee, watching the sky change as the sun rises. I love this book so much: it’s a lesson in the benefits of learning to live in the moment and to not take the simple things in life for granted.

Mog the Forgetful Cat

By Judith Kerr,

Book cover of Mog the Forgetful Cat

Why this book?

Mog is a sweet old cat. She’s very loving to her family – The Thomas’s – but very dim. She doesn’t understand the human world and her hilarious misunderstandings get her into a lot of hot water. Occasionally, she accidentally saves the day too – usually from a disaster of her own making.

The combination of this lovable cat who gets it wrong is a perennial winner. The first Mog book was written over 50 years ago and has never been out of print.

Tea From An Empty Cup

By Pat Cadigan,

Book cover of Tea From An Empty Cup

Why this book?

Cyberpunk Noir isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (sorry), and this story is dark and downbeat, with two female protagonists who aren’t especially sympathetic, so readers tend to love this book or hate it. For me, the kinetic writing style, crackling dialogue, and richly-detailed descriptions of cyberspace—as well as the fresh take on the “locked-room murder” (a virtual reality parlor in this case)—makes it a highly-recommended read.

Trouble in Nuala

By Harriet Dorothy Steel,

Book cover of Trouble in Nuala

Why this book?

I love the combination of a historical mystery with a little-known location, but this book also charmed me with a spare but fluid writing style. Ceylon in the 1930s under British rule (today Ceylon is the independent nation of Sri Lanka) sets the first book in the addictive Inspector Shanti de Silva mystery series in a riveting yet mostly overlooked moment in history. Add a superbly written cast of characters and set them at odds against each other, and I’m hooked on the whole series.

De Silva is the head of a 3-person police force in the smallish city of Nuala where he must straddle the divide between the local population and his British bosses. Reports of a cruel tea plantation owner lead to a missing worker and the owner’s suspicious debt. A dubious business associate, a frazzled wife, and a chatty mynah bird all combine to add layers of complication.

As I read Trouble in Nuala, I couldn’t help favorably comparing it to the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series set in Botswana. But Nuala in the 1930s offers more depth as the end of the colonial era simmers just over the horizon. Overall, I simply fell in love with the unique setting and this subtly clever crime fighter.

For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire, and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink

By Sarah Rose,

Book cover of For All the Tea in China: Espionage, Empire, and the Secret Formula for the World's Favourite Drink

Why this book?

I am a total tea-head, so any book about the history of how we all came to be addicts is a good start. This one is particularly gripping and reads like an adventure novel. Robert Fortune, a Scottish botanist, and industrial spy, was employed by the East India Company in 1848 to be smuggled into China and steal their tea-growing secrets. The book never flags, full of information about the opium wars, the Chelsea Physic garden and how the tea, later found to grow naturally in India, was made into a consumer product garnering enormous profits. As I grew up with a family member who disappeared to work in Assam tea gardens just before I was born, I have always been fascinated by this way of life.

Coming Home

By Lois Cloarec Hart,

Book cover of Coming Home

Why this book?

Just from the book’s back cover description, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did because any kind of cheating and love triangles are not my cup of tea in a romance novel. If you are the same, give this book a chance anyway. Jan—who cared for her husband for years—and the much-younger writer Terry never planned to fall in love, but when they do, the author handles it with complexity and integrity. It’s a book that will make you feel all the emotions the characters are going through. 

Harvesting Mountains: Fujian and the China Tea Trade, 1757-1937

By Robert Gardella,

Book cover of Harvesting Mountains: Fujian and the China Tea Trade, 1757-1937

Why this book?

A classic work of global political economy written just before the genre became fashionable. I constantly return to this book to think about the role of China in producing, shaping, and being altered by global capitalism in the nineteenth century. Gardella does not romanticize the Chinese economy as an alternative to Atlantic world slaved-based capitalism, but rather he considers how Chinese practices could be deeply exploitative. At the same time, he shows how the Chinese worked with and against the colonizing forces of Euro-American imperialism right up until the 1930s. I also love Gardella's amazing footnotes!

Keekee's Big Adventures in London, England

By Shannon Jones, Casey Uhelski (illustrator),

Book cover of Keekee's Big Adventures in London, England

Why this book?

This picture book blends fiction and non-fiction in a brilliant package. It’s part of a series about little KeeKee, a cat who is bursting with the innocence and curiosity of young children, as she travels the world to famous cities. In London, she sees some of the main tourist landmarks and has tea with a certain elegant old woman in Buckingham Palace. I think the book simply stands out because it’s so sincere. KeeKee’s excitement about everything is palpable and while the book has some sound facts in it, it brings the big world down to a tiny, friendly pint-size and is filled with joy.  

I Am Behind You

By John Ajvide Lindqvist,

Book cover of I Am Behind You

Why this book?

It is only fair that John Ajvide Lindqvist gets two mentions out of my five. He is the Nordic author most committed to the genre and damn good at it to boot. As a result, there was a lot to choose from and yet I decided on the title that is possibly the least likely to hold mass appeal, despite a premise that might seem most horror reader’s cup of tea. Ten people in campervans, plus a dog and a cat, wake up to find the world as they knew it has disappeared. What happens next is presented from a multiple POW and is disturbing, harrowing, gory, and creepy. The part that is not for everyone is that the story is hard to wrap your head around. But for those horror aficionados that do not need a perfect explanation at the end are in for a hell of a ride and therefore the novel is highly recommended.  

Unseen Magic

By Emily Lloyd-Jones,

Book cover of Unseen Magic

Why this book?

There are rules for living in the magical town of Aldermere, including the fact that the ravens must be fed. For Fin, it’s the first place she’s ever felt safe – especially since she can spend a memory for a cup of tea that will help her forget memories that feed her anxieties. But when a visit to the tea shop goes horribly wrong, Fin must confront the source of her fear before something sinister destroys the entire town. This is a heartwarming story about finding courage, facing your past, and trusting your friends. It’s a lovely, thoughtful, charming book steeped in unexpected magic (like doors that don’t always lead where you expect!) and deep truth. I think this could be a great book for families to read together because it offers the sort of comfort that readers of any age can appreciate.