Book: A Brief History of Tea

This is an oldy but a goody, first published in 2003, and an easy, affordable buy at most bookstores back in the day (I think I paid $5 for this off of the clearance pile at Chapter’s).

Moxham has written a few books on history, largely focusing on India, and two on tea: “A Brief History of Tea” and “Tea: Addiction, Exploitation and Empire”. Moxham himself worked as a tea planter in Africa, and the book opens and closes with his own account of his first few years settling as a tea planter, having no previous experience. He manages an estate, learns the language, and recounts the conditions his workers faced. Continue reading

Books to Look Forward to in 2021

I look forward to new releases, even if the sad reality is I only manage to read a couple of Tea Books a year–and usually half a decade after they’ve been published. But that doesn’t mean I can’t share what I’m looking forward to getting my hands on.

These are just a couple of the books that are slated to be published in 2021. There’s a lot of cooking, photo, and ‘mini guide’ books to slog through to find the gems, but after a lot of digging, I’ve started my ‘pre-order list’ for 2021. We’ll see what else crops up as the year progresses.

Continue reading

Book: A Thirst for Empire

This is a heavy book that I have had my eye on for a while. Most new books I’ll wait for in the library, depending on the price. This one was constantly on hold before the quarantine, and finally cleared up when I went to return the Stonewares of Yixing.

A Thirst for Empire reads a bit dry, and unfortunately even with ample time in quarantine (well, maybe not that much–I’m still working), I couldn’t finish it before my library “renews”  ran out. It’s a bit of a slog, not really intending to weave an entertaining narrative. It’s an essay foremost and that works a bit to it’s detriment as it opens with the classic Objectives of “in this work I will prove…” Which isn’t a knock on the work, just what kind of book it is. Continue reading

Book: The Stonewares of Yixing

I love this book. It’s presented in an oversized coffee table-style layout, with plates of colour and grey-scale photos from museums. But it also contains a textbook level of information, going into detail about the evolution of manufacture and style of teapots through the years, listing major contributing potters to each era, and showing copious examples of each’s work.

But here’s the story. I checked this out a little before COVID19 forced libraries to close, back in the end of January. It’s August as I finish typing this. Can’t say I’m complaining, and it’s given me time to take some seriously detailed notes. Libraries are finally opening up, and the book has a due date September 1st, roughly half a year later.

Continue reading

Tea in Quarantine

In 1939 the British government expected airstrikes from Germany. So they devised a slogan to keep up civilian moral: Keep Calm and Carry On. There were signs and posters designed for the slogan to be hung in shop windows, but they never quite made it to fruition. They survived the Blitz without them, the Brits seen as stalwart in the face of danger, stuck in their routines. I remember the stories of people returning to work in half-destroyed buildings, or setting up just outside. Continue reading

VTF 2020

The best thing about this entire self-quarantine is that all checkout times from the library have been greatly extended and I rarely leave my apartment anyways, so I’m hoarding these books.

So the Festival skipped a year and moved from winter to spring, bringing it more inline with over tea festivals. And, I assume, making it a bit more accessible to companies and attendees. The venue switched too, and as much as I liked the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, the Nikkei Cultural Centre still offered a picturesque view, a small garden and some solid dining options for when you need something over than tea in your system.

Now, I did something a little crazy this year and signed up to present. I was offered a tasting slot as well, but ended up declining… My anxiety-stricken mind can only handle one major event at a time. Continue reading

Book: Tea. T, Eden

I picked this up from the public library. Unfortunately the last person to have it decided to write in it with a black felt pen of all things. And I know it was recent because in the margins where they decided to jot swaths of notes down, they went back and blanked it out with white-out tape of all things. As if that made it better.

I cannot fathom some people.

With that mini-rant out of the way, Dr. Thomas Eden was (is?) the former director of the Tea Research Institute of East Africa. His works are those you’ll find alongside Denys Forrest’s, C.R. Harler’s and William Ukers’. Contemporaries spread out across Sri Lanka, India and Africa, they frequently reference each others’ research. Continue reading

Book: Chinese Tea Culture

I found this one poking around a used bookstore (in about… 2017? 2016? I’m behind). It’s a slim, unassuming volume, and I picked it up with a few others after flipping through it. I was struck by the Table of Contents, the quick glance I took through it, and the inclusion of book plates at the beginning; several colourful photos of historic tea pots, bowls, and paintings.

I started reading it a while ago–put it down thinking I’d finished it, and then when I picked it up again to review, realized I still had a bookmark at about the halfway mark. So I ended up rereading it anyhow (it’s 154 pages, and pretty engrossing). Before I even finished it, I’d recommended it to at least one person who was looking for information on the history of Chinese tea culture, specifically the time-period that would have influenced the development into chanoyu in Japan. Continue reading

Book: Tea Art of China

This was a book I received back at 2017’s Vancouver Tea Festival. The author had a booth at the event, and I also attended her talk on the different tea-growing regions of China.

I never really spoke to her directly, but thought her talk was pretty interesting (I was the nerd up-front taking notes, naturally). The book was gifted by someone else running the booth as a copy to review. And then… I didn’t get around to it, as I got caught up in trying to finish my degree.

Unfortunately, the review got put on the backburner even longer–half-finished as I looked for a job and ended up losing all of my free time in the process. I had notes prepared, at one point, but I’ve since lost them. Continue reading

Scented Orange Pekoe

Working at Murchie’s has been fun both on a tea-blending side, but also in that it allows me to scratch my Tea History itch.

For those not well-acquainted with Murchie’s, it’s been around a good century and in that time has developed quite a number of blends. To keep them organized, there is a Murchie’s blending book—a big black book of quick-reference recipes done to the pound of tea (and sometimes coffee) passed down through the generations. Most are family blends, dedicated to Reverend Oldfield (an actual blend—I learned about it through a friend, a descendent of said Oldfield; he dislikes it because it has jasmine), or some place (a hotel, etcetera). It’s all done in short-hand notation, and half the fun is trying to figure out that shorthand’s legend. Continue reading