7 books for the chai nerd

A cold brew and a good book to beat the heat. (Istockphoto)
A cold brew and a good book to beat the heat. (Istockphoto)


A booklist to help you build a better understanding of the world of tea

For two years, I have seesawed between Bengaluru and Puducherry, enjoying pleasant weather year-round. Until summer arrived last month and both towns turned unrelentingly hot. Some cribbing later, I decided that the only way to get through it was to quieten down and wait for it to pass. The tea of choice this season is the cold brew (made simply by refrigerating a tall glass or jug of tea leaves and water for 6 hours or longer; I prefer white tea and fruit tea blends) and to keep me company, I sought some summer reading. There is a certain synchronicity at play I think, for I stumbled upon more than one tea book recently. What I have here is a booklist if you are looking for something to help you build a better understanding of the world of tea.

My current read is World Atlas of Tea (2016) by Krisi Smith. It is a great book to make your acquaintance with the beverage and its origins. What I like is the practical tips on how to blend, brew and even grow tea at home.

The Philosophy of Tea (2020) by Tony Gebely is part of the “Philosophy of..." series by The British Library that includes wine, gin, coffee and cheese. The Philosophy of Tea is his second book on tea and makes for an engaging and informative read about tea’s history, varieties and cultures across the world.

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If tea’s social and cultural history is of interest, The Story of Tea—A Cultural History and Drinking Guide (2007) by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss is a good pick. It documents tea’s story as told by tea merchants who travel extensively to procure tea. A must-have is A Social History of Tea (2015) by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson. Pettigrew is a British writer while Richardson is at the forefront of the American tea movement. This collaboration between two stalwarts of the Western tea world is a fabulous insight into tea’s influence on the culture and society of their countries.

If you seek a little more by way of technicality, you’ll enjoy Tea: A Nerd’s Eye View (2019) by Virginia Utermolen Lovelace. Lovelace views tea through the lens of science, from how we taste and smell tea to how water, heat and even the pots impact it.

A recent addition to the tea bibliography is Spill the Tea (2019) by William Dietz, a short but easy-to-read book on blended and flavoured teas. Much of what we consume falls in this category and Dietz advocates it while setting out to inform tea drinkers about it.

An all-time favourite is Infused—Adventures in Tea (2019) by Henrietta Lowell who runs the UK-based Rare Tea Company. Interestingly, so many tea books have been written by Western tea merchants. For many of them, travelling to tea lands is a journey of discovery and of seeking the origins of a favoured beverage. And sometimes, as with Lovell’s book, it’s equally a journey of personal discovery.

Tea Nanny is a fortnightly series on the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. She posts @AravindaAnanth1 on Twitter.

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