Saturday, November 27, 2010

TEA The drink that changed the world

I was at the public library when I came across this book "TEA The drink that changed the world". Written by Laura C. Martin and published by Tuttle Publishing in 2007.

This book traces the history of tea, tea in China, Korea and Japan, the Japanese tea ceremony and how tea was spread to the rest of the world.

Below is an excerpt from the book:
"During the middle of the eleventh century, the process of creating tea underwent a dramatic change in China as tea masters discovered new ways of processing tea leaves to bring forth enhanced flavor. Instead of being pounded and formed into bricks, tea leaves were dried and powdered, then boiling water was added, and the brew was whipped with a bamboo whisk until foamy. The resulting beverage was called 'whipped tea' and the taste was decidedly superior. It was sometimes poetically called 'frothy jade' because of its green color and foamy appearance caused by the whipping motion. Because the flavor was so much better, this new method of preparation proved to be a monumental step in the development of tea. This type of green tea (which we call matcha today) is still used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
This new whipped tea formed what tea scholars call the 'second phase' of tea. During the first phase, brick tea was the most common form of processed tea, and during the third phase, which we're still in today, tea lovers began to steep loose tea leaves in hot water. The three 'schools' or 'phases' of tea are Brick, Whipped and Steeped, based on the most commonly used preparation method.

There are numerous illustrations in the book from old drawings, sketches, photographs, maps and diagrams. It was a pity that there were no color illustrations in this book. I was disappointed that the author wrongly described ripe pu erh tea as "The second type of Pu erh tea is cooked to speed the aging time."(pg 218)

I liked the author's use of collecting quotations on tea. William Gladstone, the British prime minister (1809-1898) was quoted "If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you."

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