Book: Tea Growing, by C.R. Harler

Well, it’s been a while.

Since I read the book, I mean. I know I take pretty big breaks between posts. I picked this up during the summer, and finished it off pretty quickly, but I guess I got caught up after the term started.

This is probably the most in-depth I’ve seen a book go on tea propagation before. There’s quite a few well known handbooks in the tea community, and most mention tea propagation; this book is written almost with tea growers in mind, or those newly entering into the field. It’s not organized as an actual field manual, but more a useful introduction. It is, as mentioned, from the 60s, and some of the terminology is out of date (there’s a paragraph discussing the debate to rename it from thea sinensis), but the information is still largely relevant. It does a good job of defining terms, which I think makes it easier to pick up if you’ve got little history in botany; it also boasts a large bibliography, and I’ll probably spend one of these days trying to track down some of these other works.

The book uses the classic Assam convention of tea ‘jats’ in lieu of modern scientific varieties. All in all I really found it to be a pretty solid book (there were a few typos, but); it’s interesting in that it goes into detail over the different methods required to cultivate different jats. Assam for example, flourishes easily from seeds, but is not a hardy bush, only growing well in a select few regions (and with minimum temperature-range); meanwhile, the China jat is almost sterile, and very difficult to grow from seed–most die and never sprout–but flourishes if grown from clippings of existing bushes. It also grows well in a wide range of climates and temperatures, and is more likely to survive cold winters. China jats also have more ‘fragrance’, which apparently relies in part on the altitude in which it’s grown.

It really gives new perspective to current growing trends. Why individual bushes and clonals are so highly prized in China teas (dan congs, for example) but less so in many areas of India. Why China jats are used in darjeeling, and grown in the high mountains, and why individual flushes are prized. Also why the Assam jat was cultivated throughout India first, and more specifically, in the context of For All The Tea In China, why the first seeds returned by Robert Fortune failed so miserably until he switched to transporting already-rooted saplings instead. I think that was the part when I just went “oh”.

At any rate. The volume is a useful little handbook, although I suspect much of the information is covered elsewhere (though perhaps not as concisely). I think it would be handy to flip through at least for the people interested in growing their own tea tree (of which I know there are a few, on here or on Steepster); it lists ratios of fertilizers, temperature ranges for jats, and the like. There’s a whole section detailing sub-jats as well, but I won’t go into that too much here.

The author has out at least one, maybe two other books on tea (‘Tea Manufacture’, ‘The Culture and Marketing of Tea’); my school library hasn’t got it, but the downtown public library does, so I’ll have to make a trip.

  • Availability: Tricky; ‘Tea Manufacture’ and ‘Tea Marketing’ seem to be much more widespread and available than ‘Tea Growing’.

A transgendered, tea-drinking, rock-hammer wielding, mineral-collecting, fashionable, mid-twenties Canadian.

3 Comments

  1. Interesting book, I didn’t know it existed a book on growing tea. And I would like to hear more about the two other books you mentionned.

  2. More books to put on the wishlist :)

    I do have the following (but have still not found the time to read them):
    “Tea” by Wilson
    “Tea Cultivation” by Hajra
    Some older tea cultivation books in Dutch

    Do you know them and if so how do they compare to Harler’s books?

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