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The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World's Best Teas Paperback – March 30, 2010

42 customer reviews

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The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World's Best Teas + Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties + The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Making the perfect cuppa is not as easy as it may sound. How hot should the water be? How long should the tea steep? What kind of tea should be used in the first place? All pertinent tea-making questions are answered in knowlegeable, bouyant prose in this handy guide. The authors take readers along as they “explore the world of premium tea”; premium tea, once unknown in the West, is now very popular in the U.S. (“Tea,” by the way, is “the most widely consumed beverage on the planet after water” and “still proudly maintains its title as the world’s oldest beverage.”) Guidance is extended to purchasing and steeping tea, but the in-depth discussions of the properties and particular pleasures of the six classes of tea dominate most of the book’s pleasurable pages. Information on tea storage and a glossary round out this excellent introduction to a special world. --Brad Hooper



“a map to have in your grasp as you head down the dozens of intricate, interconnected paths that define the landscape of the world’s best teas.”
Fresh Cup magazine, December 2010

“Excellent, concise advice about tea. The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook, a charming guide small enough to fit in a large pocket, brims with enthusiasm. ...The information is essential to appreciation; almost every word bears on taste. The Heisses write with impressive accuracy, having researched and lived the subject extensively.... All tea styles...are given equal attention and value, which is rarely the case in tea literature. ...All is laid out with succint clarity and precision.”
—Kevin Gascoyne, The Art of Eating, 7/1/10

"This book is like a mini encyclopedia dedicated to all things Camellia sinensis."
—Imbibe Magazine, March 2010

"The Heisses have written a valuable guide."
—Library Journal, 3/15/10

"All pertinent tea-making questions are answered in knowledgeable, buoyant prose in this handy guide."
—Booklist, 2/15/10

"Rich detail on how to buy, brew, and enjoy the six classes of tea. Questions...are answered with unparalleled passion."
—Tea A Magazine, February 2010

“This delightful, pocket-sized edition offers virtually everything one needs to know about selecting, brewing and enjoying the most consumed (after water) beverage on earth.”
—Gourmet Retailer

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158008804X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580088046
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a tea specialist and have sourced premium tea for over 38 years. As co-owner/co-founder of Tea Trekker and, I am also proud to be an adventurous tea trekker on the ground in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan sourcing tea from tea farmers and small village tea producers. Our business focuses on not just tea but the diverse cultural aspects of tea and tea drinking in each tea producing country.

Along with Bob Heiss I am the co-author and principal photographer for our book The Story of Tea:A Cultural History and Drinking Guide, I am extremely proud that our book was nominated for both an IACP and James Beard Cookbook Award in 2008 and received a Gourmand Award for Best Tea Book in the USA in 2008.

Our second tea book - The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook, A Guide to Enjoying the World's Best Teas - is a handy companion volume with practical advise for navigating the delicious maze of tea categories and styles available in tea shops today. In addition, Bob Heiss and I co-wrote HOT DRINKS and I am the single author of Green Tea.

The New York Times dubbed us 'the Professors of Tea' and we are thrilled with that title. Because we know that not all tea is the same and quality varies wildly, we travel to East Asia as often as we can to select our rare and premium teas and to re-affirm our commitment to our suppliers. We look for the highest grades, the choicest leaf and small, hand-made batches.

Tea and tea culture consumes our waking hours and we feel lucky to be able introduce a world of artisan tea to Western tea drinkers. Knowing that centuries-old tea making traditions are continuing today because tea drinkers are more educated and are demanding better tea makes us smile.

Understanding tea is a complex study of how's and why's. Tea knowledge is comprised of minutia, lots of it, as well as recognizing the importance of both the large and small differences in each class of tea.

Studying tea is a lifelong quest; one cannot learn all there is to know about the styles of tea in a few broad strokes. When we visit tea-producing countries we become students to the tea masters that teach us and share their wisdom about tea with us.

We return home each time with additional knowledge, new insights, and a deeper appreciation for the craft of tea-making, and in turn share this information with our tea customers and readers.

Together and individually, we present professional and vocational seminars and classes on tea culture and history, and lead group tea tasting workshops. In our store we periodically conduct a series of Master Classes in Tea.

Please sign up on for our e-newsletter for announcements of tea events and classes. And subscribe to Tea Trekker's blog, an informative and educational addendum to our website and tea books, which will be delivered directly into your in-box with each new post.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Austin Hodge on May 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are few books about tea that add to the discussion about tea in any meaningful way, but Mary Lou and Robert Heiss's new book, 'The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook' is one of them. This is a book about quality, although they sidestep the word because it has very little meaning in the industry, and instead use the word 'soundness', saying "We prefer to begin judging the potential merits of a tea by evaluating its soundness".

Their book points the reader in a sound direction. Serious students of tea may find that they disagree with some of the details, but it is indisputable that the path to the world's best teas is clearly defined in this book. The international tea industry has never been clear about this path because it points to China and unblended, unflavored tea, and the established industry has a hard time delivering such tea to consumers. Even though teas from other areas are mentioned, the heart of the book is about Chinese tea. China, after all, is where tea originated, and definitions about tea need to be consistent with Chinese standards.

They have taken a risk in writing this book. The industry has not been very supportive of writers that dare to write books that challenge conventional wisdom. It may not be obvious to the people reading that are outside of the industry, but a book like this really is a game changer. People will start to look at the tea that they are buying from the conventional sources and will start to realize that tea that they are buying and is being sold for 'good quality' is in reality very 'sound'. Then the open secret that people in the industry know, and increasingly 'tea enthusiasts' are becoming aware of, is that there is much better tea out there, it's just that it is difficult to come by in the US and Europe.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Paper Cake Scissors on April 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
The authors know tea. More importantly, they know how to make the world of tea accessible and interesting to all levels of steepers. Literally a "handbook," this small volume fits comfortably in the palm and packs quite a punch. A majority of the book's information is devoted to explaining the six classes of tea by describing processing techniques, mapping growing regions, and showing the leaves and liquor of specific teas, such as Tung Ting oolong. New to purchasing tea? Follow their well-informed advice on deciphering pricing, freshness and seasonality, and how to brew a proper cup. And make sure to flip to the glossary in the back to expand your tea vocabulary even further.

Don't be deceived by its small size-this book is a must-have for the tea enthusiast!
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen San Martino TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book explains what real tea is. All tea comes from one plant and variations on that one plant. It also talks about the six types of tea from least processed to most processed (green, yellow, white, oolong, black, and Pu-erh). You'll learn about tea processing in the countries of origin (China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, etc.) and the different variations of tea and how the leaves should look and the tea should taste. There are also pictures of the brewed tea being described so you can get an idea of the liquid in your cup.

If you are looking for recipes or information about what the West calls tea but really isn't tea (like herbal infusions or tisanes), then you won't find information on that in this book. This book is strictly about real tea from the countries of origin that come from the camellia sinesis plant. I love this handbook and am impressed with the education I received just from reading it.
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55 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Steve on March 9, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good introduction to some of the true (not tisane or flavored) teas. However, I have some of the same complaints as other reviewers: namely that there didn't exist a thorough enough description of enough teas, nor did the book include all the most famous teas from china, Japan, Sri Lanka, etc. also, I feel that the heiss' purist ways led them away from listing the wonderful teas that have sprung up around the world in Japan, Tibet, India, etc.

Most importantly, and I must preface this with the fact that this is a valuable contribution to a food item that has relatively little written about it for the general public, I did not appreciate the author's attitude when I got the chance to meet them in Northampton, MA. Regrettably, I did not get a chance to speak with Mary Lou. However, Robert seemed a little ticked off by my interest in tea and even told me, quite ironically because his book mentions it so tersely, that my understanding of storing oolong tea is too simplistic. I was also told that I must not have authentic teas because they looked slightly different than the teas he had. Upon purchasing from him and taking the tea home to compare, they were exact in smell and taste. While I will not recant every bit of our short conversation, I will say that it left me with a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended). Robert could not be bothered sweeping his store to sell me any tea, and answered all my questions condescendiingly. The conversation was almost like a saturday night live skit, just not very funny to me in the moment. I can say that I will never shop there again for the sheer principle. I believe that those who are so devoted and excited about something such as tea should either be as excited to educate others about it, or keep it wholly to themselves.
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