Tea: A Miscellany Steeped with Trivia, History and Recipes (Book Review)

by Sam Bilton on April 24, 2015 No comments

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Like many of my generation I was raised on tea. To this day the best cup of tea I’ve ever had was made by my Nan in a battered stainless steel teapot (a blatant disregard for George Orwell’s rules who believed tea should always be brewed in a teapot made of ‘china or earthenware’) using loose leaves, never bags, and served in a porcelain mug. Nothing I have ever prepared myself or drunk elsewhere (even in swanky hotels) has ever compared to my Nan’s tea.

I weaned myself off tea when I went travelling in the firm belief (which I still hold) that it is impossible to get a decent cuppa outside of the British isles. I have been a resolute coffee drinker ever since. So I would say I am an occasional tea drinker at best. But this doesn’t mean I don’t find the history of this beverage fascinating.

What is the essence of this book?

Tea: A Miscellany is a pocket size treasure trove of trivia and history on one of the nations favourite brews. It explains what tea is; it’s provenance; how and where it is consumed (Turkey evidently has the highest consumption per capita worldwide) with a few recipes thrown in for good measure. It’s filled with quotes from well known (and not so well known) historical personages from Lu Yu to Agatha Christie and contains some surprising revelations. Did you know that PG Tips was first introduced to Britain in the 1930s as a pre dinner digestive aid called ‘Pre-Gest-Tee’? Well, I didn’t.

About the author

This is the second book from Emily Kearns, a freelance writer and editor. Apparently she loves all teas but her favourite is the delicate and citrusy Earl Grey.

Who will like it?

Tea aficionados and fans of QI type trivia.

Who won’t like it?

I would say tea haters but I’m not a tea lover myself and I rather like it.

What do I like about the book?

Kearns’ style is light hearted and easy going making this book perfect to dip in and out of. The information is presented in bite size pieces requiring minimal time commitment to absorb. In the best possible sense it would make great lavatory literature.

Is there anything I dislike about the book?

For me, the recipes, like Green Tea Cupcakes and Tea Smoked Mackerel, aren’t particularly inspiring but as this isn’t primarily a recipe book it’s not a major gripe. If nothing else it has spurred me on to create my own tea recipe which I will post this weekend.

Would I cook from it?

No, but then I wouldn’t really class this as a cookbook. I would rephrase this question and say am I likely to pick up this book again? The answer is, yes, absolutely. I think it’s interesting, fun and incredibly well researched.

Where can you buy it?

Tea: A Miscellany Steeped with Trivia, History and Recipes (Summersdale) is available from Amazon priced £9.99

Look out for my forthcoming post on Earl Grey Lamingtons!


Sam BiltonTea: A Miscellany Steeped with Trivia, History and Recipes (Book Review)

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