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It’s Sunday, that means it is time to crack open a tea book for review. Of course I have a cup of tea to sip while writing this (and while reading it) I am on steep number four of some Da Hong Pao and getting a bit tea drunk. Tea Culture: History, Traditions, Celebrations, Recipes & More by Beverly Dubrin is a fairly short book with lots of lovely photographs and little nuggets of tea information.

Sadly I am unable to show lots fun photos of me reading this book because I checked out a digital copy from my library. You guys will have to take my word for it that the photos are pretty good, lots of historical photos and ones of various cultures enjoying tea. I will supply just random tea photos to break up the wall of text.

This would be a good book for someone really new to tea, I mean really new. Have a friend who just bought their first box of teabags from the grocery store and wants to know more about tea, but you are not sure if it is a passing phase or a real interest? I suggest this book for them. After typing that I realize that might seem a bit condescending, but it really was not meant to be. There is nothing wrong with a passing phase, or an introduction to a new subject, we all have to start somewhere!

As you probably noticed from the rather long title, this book has tea history, including the connection to the Opium Wars, too many books gloss over that nasty bit of history, which I find bothersome. Tea culture goes somewhat in depth into Chado (or Chanoyu, Japanese Tea Ceremony) and touches on Morrocan tea, English Tea, Russian tea, and the occasion of having tea at a Chinese Restaurant (apparently it is Jasmine tea? I always was served oolong!) There was no mention of Gongfu Cha, which I found odd…not to mention any of the other tea cultures from around the world. Of course the section on various types of tea drinkers (casual, purists, masters) was a bit annoying, there is no need for labels, if you drink tea you are a tea drinker. That is just a pet peeve of mine.

The rather long section on tea bags make it very clear that the author is a huge fan of the bags, describing their lofty talents of making the perfect cup, since teaballs and infusers do not allow for the best expansion of leaves, and often make the cup bitter because leaves get left behind. Also that the silk pyramid bags are very eco-friendly, sadly perpetuating the myth…they are just plastic, not at all biodegradable. Teabags have been elevated to a new level in both quality of tea and packaging. I am not going to straight up say this is wrong, but I certainly do not agree with these statements. Teabags are fine, even I use them occasionally, but it is almost like drinking a whole different drink and not tea. To me it is like the difference between 4% milk fat cottage cheese and fat free cottage cheese, they are clearly the same thing but they are so different I cannot file them as the same in my brain.

If you are going to give this book a read or you are going to gift it, I honestly suggest skipping the section on processing all together. There are so many inaccuracies that I actually cringed a bit, really there are too many to list. At least the author uses the term oxidation instead of fermentation when describing the process of, well, oxidation. I have seen a lot of books originally written in Chinese translate that incorrectly which has caused some rather confusing bits of information floating around. Also the section on decaffeinating your own tea by rinsing it is so annoyingly untrue that it actually offends me a bit, mainly because it can be a health hazard. Imagine a person who has to limit caffeine intake reads this section and thinks they have a nice decaffeinated cup of tea, yeah, that can only end poorly. At the same time I have to give this book some props for saying that various herbal teas’s health benefits are presumed and not a definite.

As much as it seems like I am tearing this book apart, it does have some good qualities. The brewing guide is decent (no Gongfu style steeping, but not really surprising, this is an entry level book after all) and the recipes for different kinds of tea is pretty cool. I like that it even includes instructions for cooking Boba for bubble tea (they can be surprisingly picky about preparation, silly little balls) and includes both traditional drinks and fun herbal blends and lattes. I actually jotted down a few of the recipes to use later, I think they could be a hit at family gatherings. There are also food recipes so you can have traditional scones and sandwiches for your fancy tea party, which there is also tips on how to plan on of those.

The last section of the book was titled ‘Beyond Tea’ which made me imagine a teapot flying out into space, clearly I watch and read too much Sci-Fi. This section covers other uses for tea, like teabag art, hair and skin care, and general things of that nature. It is super short though, so clearly the flying teapot did not go too far. So, can I recommend this book? Yes and no, like I said earlier, a beginner can get a good start on this book, however the incorrect information makes me cringe and want to snatch the book away before it damages the reader’s perception of tea. On the other hand it has some yummy recipes so I can certainly recommend it as a tea cook book. This book is decent and very problematic.

For blog and photos: http://ramblingbutterflythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/08/tea-culture-history-traditions.html

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My Rating Guide, This is a personal rating and not necessarily a reflection of the tea’s quality
100-Must have on hand, it is one of my favorite teas
85-99-Really good teas, like exquisitely good
65-84-Not bad, they can be good but generic, or just teas that I found enjoyably ok.
40-64-Not a favorite, but not terrible. I would drink it if it was in front of me but I doubt I would seek it out on my own.
20-40-Not the best tea ever, either it was not to my liking or it was really bland. Chances are I would turn this one down unless I was really thirsty.
0-19-No, just no. Either there was something wrong with this tea or it was utterly undrinkable by me.

I am a nerdy, obsessive, crafty, tea blogging, gaming nut. Yeah, that about sums me up! Ok, you want something more informative….

I am a Geek, hardcore fan-girl Geek. It shapes my life. I spend a lot of time making things out of perler beads and I bet you can guess what inspires them. Other than the obsessive pixelizing of things I spend a large portion of my time doing origami (especially Lucky Stars and modular geometric designs) it is an equal obsession. I hoard dice, get obsessed with games, and will talk about whatever fandom, game, etc that I am obsessed over until I am blue in the face. I am not just a gamer girl type Geek, I also fit in the collecting knowledge and spending way too much time reading, category of Geek.

But there is more to me than just being a giant nerd. I love tea, always have and have just gotten more and more obsessed as I get older. I love trying new teas and then writing lengthy descriptions about them on my blog, I love reading and researching the history and culture of tea, I love collecting tea pots and fancy tea tools.

When the weather allows it, I love to go mushroom hunting. I don’t eat them, instead I use them for photography and spore prints. It is my dream to one day become a Mycologist studying slime molds.

I have Fibromyalgia, it sucks, but I feel people who are going to interact with me should know since I tend to vanish because of it. So fair warning!!

I also have cats, love the ocean and all aquatic life, love cheese, and collect hats.

My favorite tea is definitely Oolong, but I also love Japanese greens and…ok I just love tea actually :P I am not a huge fan of lemony teas or tart fruit teas. I also loathe hibiscus (usually)

This is my actual tea wishlist, you know that I actually update and keep track of…I tend to forget Steepster’s https://www.facebook.com/notes/amanda-wilson/tea-wishlishtshopping-list-perpetually-in-progress/10152336515414411 I use my steepster WL to keep track of teas I have had and really want more of :P

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