Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan
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The Temptation of Tea Books

April 08, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Books

So, it’s my birthday today, and I thought maybe I should buy a book for myself. So I went websurfing, because at least two of the books that have caught my eye lately are about tea.

I recently heard writer Sarah Rose on NPR about her recent book For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History. The book sounds fascinating, and could be another brick in the wall I am building that encompasses the intertwined histories of my grandparents’ nations of origin: China and the UK. (I’m Chinese-filipino/Irish/Welsh. Have I mentioned how much I loved Hong Kong? But I digress.)

For All The Tea In China tells the story of how a man named Robert Fortune (no, I am not making that up), botanist and adventurer, stole the secret of tea cultivation from a Chinese plantation, including seeds, samples, and the methods of horticulture, so that British-owned plantations in India could be started. (This also partly explains why the Yunnan Gold Rings tea I am drinking right at this very moment tastes a lot like Assam Gold Rain.)

Anyway, I do rail against Amazon’s arrogance and hegemony in the digital book industry, but couldn’t help but notice that the book is on sale for 55% off. WOW. That’s as cheap as a wholesaler gets it. In other words, I could order several copies of it, and resell them, and make what a bookstore would make on doing so. This is a $26 hardcover, and they are selling it for $11.69. And it looks like a really good book. I might have to buy it. (No, I’m not actually going to re-sell it. I’ve lost enough money in the book business already, thank you.)

If you decide to buy it too, click this link to buy it and I’ll get a kickback from the Amazon hegemony: For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History

The other book I am interested in is Roy Fong’s Great Teas of China. Interestingly, Amazon doesn’t actually sell the book, just lists it, and the Imperial Tea Court is the seller. So I went over to the Imperial Tea Court website to see it there. Roy Fong, for those not familiar with him, runs the Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco, where he teaches amazing tea tasting classes, runs tea tours of China, and most recently bought a tea farm of his own. And wrote a book recently, hence this.

Turns out there are a bunch of tea books for sale at Imperial Tea Court. Frank Murphy’s The Spirit of Tea caught my eye also.

Ah indecision! In the end I have not yet bought any of these books, because although I have one day a year to treat myself to an indulgent book purchase… I have no day when just reading that book is the rule. Perhaps that’s what I should do for my birthday next year. Set aside at least one day just to read. And sip tea.

2 Comments to “The Temptation of Tea Books”


  1. Hi. Long time, no see. Hope all’s well with you.

    I have Roy’s book, and I am quite impressed with it. The title is somewhat misleading; he takes an extensive in-depth look at some classic teas that he really likes, with details of processing and culture that I haven’t really seen elsewhere. It’s a fairly short book, won’t take you long to read. (I should confess that I’m not exactly unbiased. I buy almost all of my China tea from Roy & Grace, and I went to China with Roy in 2000, on one of his tea tours. Roy is brilliant, and he has been studying tea for a long time.)

    I’m listed in the credits or appreciations of Frank’s book, and I have a copy, but I haven’t had a chance to give it a thorough going-over yet. (Frank also went to China with Roy in 2000, and that’s how I met him. He asked me a number of botanical questions while he was writing the book.)

    Best —
    jon

    ctan Reply:

    Hi Jon! Nice to hear from you! I think I’m going to try to hold out to buy Roy’s book on my next trip to San Francisco — I’m hoping to catch one of his tea tasting classes. I doubt I’ll be able to afford one of his tea tours anytime this decade, so that’ll have to be the next best thing.

    I quite enjoyed Sarah Rose’s book, which someone gave me for my birthday. I had not realized just how many of our “typical” garden plants/ornamentals were originally imported from China by British horticulturists and botanists! The rose, azalea, forsythia, etc… Fascinating.

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