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19 Lessons On Tea: Become an Expert on Buying, Brewing, and Drinking the Best Tea Paperback – December 12, 2012
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The use of the term oxidation as opposed to the incorrect term of fermentation when applied to tea processing was the high spot for me in this book. And a correct explanation of oxidation is presented. Sadly, stating that "experts" support both sides of the use of oxidation or fermentation. The accepted term in the tea industry is oxidation and the use of fermentation indicates the person using does not understand either the chemistry of the processes or how tea is processed.
Statements like "Plucking by hand is only reserved for high quality teas these days; modern technology harvests and processes most lower quality tea now." shows a misunderstanding of tea processing in various cultures. Japanese tea is predominantly machine harvested, some of the most expensive darjeelings undergo mechanical processing, prized oolongs may also undergo mechanical manipulation & technology pervades tea processors to everything from shade during an outdoor wither to control temperature and humidity during indoor withering. The most expensive and prized gyokuros and ceremonial matchas have technolgy employed at various steps to assure proper shade growing to contolled grinding speed for matcha to the air & light proof packaging.
Comments like "any green tea you drink outside of Japan was probably grown in China." is false. Japan exports green tea and can be easily purchased. And saying that a particular type of tea is superior to others does not take into consideration that every type of tea has various qualities depending on the grower, the processing and storage. The statement that dragonwell is a superior tea just because a bud and 2 leaves are used is invalid. It's these kind of generalities throughout the book will erodes its credibility.
Beginners starting with this book will end up with misconceptions about tea. A better resource would be the book Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Kevin Gascoin who presents regularly at the World Tea Expo and trains tea professionals. Those interested in just dabbling in tea, the education section of any reputable tea company website where how to steep a proper cup of tea using their products is available.
The basics of tea production, the wide range of tea varieties, and various aspects of brewing and serving tea are covered along with some interesting historical and cultural tea trivia. Even tisanes and the health aspects of tea are discussed.
The book is compact and the chapters are focused enough so that an index isn't really needed but a bibliography and footnotes would be helpful to readers wanting to go beyond the basics and explore any of the many fascinating aspects of tea in greater detail.
A copy was provided by the publisher for unbiased review.
In that regard, this book is a very fair starting read for anybody interested in learning a little more beyond the basics of tea - and I can guarantee all beginner to intermediate tea enthusiasts will learn a thing or two from this piece. It offers a well-rounded starting point and brief look into the growing, cultivation, processing, sale, and proper preparation into the major categories of tea (green, yellow, white, oolong, pu-ehr, black and herbal).
It informs readers on some really pertinent facts about each type and presents brief histories, and some trivia, at the end of each chapter. It covers the basics of brewing and steeping methods, accessories, rituals, rarities, and the like. After reading through the entire book, I found myself recognizing popular blends and regional teas while browsing different tea shops where before I had no idea what they meant (for example, gunpowder green tea or lapsang souchong).
Where the book falls a bit short is in the writing, which is somewhat elementary and dull, and its only very brief coverage of other popular tea types like rooibos and yerba maté. The plus side is that it's a very quick read and well organized, packing a lot of information in a small amount of time, making it a great reference to carry around while looking for teas to try. The information presented in 19 Lessons... is fundamentally sound for anybody who wants a starting point to greater knowledge.