The author - Helen Saberi - may be described as a culinary academic. She has written a number of books on the subject of food and has assisted in the compilation of the Oxford Companion to Food. This book on tea is very accessible to the general reader, and contains some very interesting information for scholarly research. The book is arranged into seven chapters, not including an introduction, a recipes section, and a glossary, etc. The chapters are entitled:
1) What is Tea? 2) China. 3) Japan, Korea and Taiwan. 4) Caravans and Mediterranean ?Shores. 5) Tea Comes to the West. 6) India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. 7) Tea Today and Tomorrow.
The origins of tea are obscure. Saberi explains that tea in Chinese legends may well date back to Emperor Shen Nong (1737-1697BC), although another Chinese legend attributes its beginning to a Buddhist scholar named Wu Li Zhen who is believedto have visited India around 53 BC, where he is believed to have been given seven tea plants, possibly selected from tea already growing in Assam. He brought these plants back to China and planted them on Meng Mountain, Sichuan, an area still famous today for its Gan Lu or 'Sweet Dew' tea.
Tea is of course a British obsession. It is interesting to note that this habit only began in the 17th century in England - with tea being served as an alternative drink in coffee houses. It soon caught on and its price fell as a consequence, allowing people of all classes to partake in the beverage that the Chinese observed to be a general stimulant, that served as a tonic. Tea is of course the Fujian pronounciation of the Manderin word 'cha'. Contained within this book is a very clear explanation of how tea is grown, together with the various processes employed that produce the different blends of tea we know today This is a very good book printed and designed with all the elegance befitting the Japanese Tea Ceremony.