I have spent a little time alongside the tea-trade where English families have worked for four and five generations: Mister Griffiths know his subject inside and out, and I would be surprised had he not plenty of ancestors in the trade. The detail can seem daunting at first but it ultimately proves as satisfying as a pot of First-Flush Darjeeling (no tea-bags, milk or sugar if you please, just as the cognoscenti take it).
For the thrill-seeker it is all here: exploration, industrial espionage, gunboat diplomacy, cut-throat competition and foul tricks, high-society and the rest. For the new lovers of tea the author even teaches how to brew the best cup possible. For a general reader, a roller-coaster-ride of history, science and fact.
Want to know the dirty politics and (largely unreported) skulduggery behind the Boston Tea Party? The botany of tea and the amazingly complex job of running a tea-estate? Every ancient trick of the trade (mercifully abandoned) from smuggling to adulteration? Why tea-caddies needed locks or why last year's costly porcelain tea-service had to be given to the servants and replaced? What the contemporaries of Confucius thought of tea (and why we know they were misquoted)? Why the Chinese might sneer at Japanese tea-drinking, vice-versa, and why they both should sneer at us? How tea came to be savoured in India and who grows the most now (clue: neither China nor India)? This list hardly scrapes the surface of fascinations on offer.
Read this hugely entertaining book and delight your tea-drinking friends, or learn enough detail to become a tea-snob and drive them crazy; it's up to you. Even if you are some poor soul who lives on instant-coffee, read it and upgrade your life.