Tea Leaf Reading: The 5 Best Books about Tea

What to do while drinking matcha tea? Just sit and do nothing, of course, except enjoying the flavour of the drink in front of us, the shape of the cup, our inner and outer breath.
But after we take in this mindful experience, we can immerse ourselves in the world of tea, in all its glorious varieties, deep histories, chemical compositions and folklore stories.
If you are intent on learning more about matcha tea, or any other type of tea that strikes your fancy, here are some of the best books on the topic, with brief descriptions of each.

The next time you sit down with a cup of matcha tea, inform yourself about the background of the family of drinks that mean so much to so many people the world over. The history of tea is fascinating, its cultivation intriguing, and its varieties virtually endless. A casual study of tea can teach us much about ourselves and offers a window into the human condition.

The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura

A masterful book from a master of the subject. The Book of Tea tells the story of tea’s role in Japanese culture and history. Don’t be put off by the esoteric scent of the matter, however, because Okakura penned the best-seller in English and dutifully aimed it toward non-Japanese readers. A story in and of himself, Okakura, who died in 1913 at the age of 51, lived his final years in Boston as an academic and ambassador. He curated the Japanese and Chinese art at Boston’s museum of that era. A Zen teacher, artist and writer on various subjects, he intended this book as a gateway for Westerners to understand just how important tea is to the Japanese.

Anyone interested in Japanese tea ceremony will be fascinated by the stories the author tells of several tea masters who are household names in Japan but unknown in the West. These masters based their entire lives on the Zen-infused philosophies that are the underpinning of formal Japanese tea ceremony. Oddly, some reviews of The Book of Tea refer to it as a philosophy text that opens up new avenues toward the study of Taoism, Zen Buddhism and Japanese culture.

When the book was written, Japan was undergoing a massive political and cultural transformation leading up to the Meiji Restoration. In many ways it is one last look through the window of Old Japan before that modern change-over. A unique, deeply interesting volume that only gains fans as the years pass. Highly recommended.

The Matcha Miracle, by Dr. Mariza Snyder and Dr. Lauren Clum

This paperback book is already a classic on matcha tea, combining all sorts of information about the dynamic drink that seems to be taking the world by storm. The doctor-authors refer to matcha tea as “green gold”. Indeed, the second most consumed drink on earth, tea is packed with a plethora of nutritional components. The book looks at matcha tea’s ability to help burn calories, build immunity and increase human energy levels. For anyone who wants all the details in a condensed, readable form, this book delivers the goods.

A bonus for any matcha tea enthusiast is the long section of recipes. The authors offer simple-to-make delicacies and more traditional edibles, all with a matcha twist, like chocolate truffles, candied carrots, pudding, cranberry scones, cauliflower stir-fry, salmon, and many others.

The book includes a readable, interesting version of the history of matcha tea, a lengthy list of the tea’s health benefits, and an awesome smoothie recipe (in the long recipe chapter). Learn to use the drink properly and find out how to include matcha tea into your everyday life.

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide, by Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss

The authors, both scholars, offer up a classic book the sheer weight of which is impressive. The 400-plus page tome has a little bit of everything about tea for the interested reader. It features travel stories, detailed history, tips on how to brew, and other encyclopedic data about the state of the world’s tea culture and industry. This is a worthy addition to any reference library of readers who enjoy tea. Even though it is a scholarly book, the writing is easy to understand and enjoyable, with a minimum amount of technical jargon.

For All the Tea in China, by Sarah Rose

In this real-life thriller of a book, Rose details the tricky, secretive and sometimes hostile history of tea. As the wheeler-dealer tea traders of history transported the plant from China to India, wars were fought, fortunes were made and lost, and plenty of cloak-and-dagger derring-do took place. No fictional account, For All the Tea in China offers a rare glimpse into the convoluted history of tea and explains why the world tea crop is, even today, one of the most vital economic commodities in existence. Readers would be hard pressed to find a more interesting treatment of the subject.

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties, by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, and Jasmin Desharnais

This is the one for every tea-drinker’s reference shelf. It details all the major world tea varieties, has gorgeous photos, and is jam-packed with information that is both interesting and usable. Look for the updated, second edition. The authors leave no tea leaf unturned as they delineate the history of tea, the global tea trade, how the plants are grown and harvested, the characteristics of all the major plant varieties, and interviews with famous people in the tea trade. For true enthusiasts, this book is a treat, as it offers specific descriptions of more than 40 types of tea, recommendations about what kinds of pots to use, information about Japanese tea ceremony, chemical profiles of nearly three dozen popular teas, and much, much more.

When it comes to tea, there are many informative, and even collectible, books available at bookstores and online. For anyone who loves tea, the above selections are a good starting point, but are by no means an inclusive list. Tea is one of the most popular drinks on earth, so it should surprise no one that hundreds of books have been written on the subject. Find one you like and enjoy reading about tea while you sip your favorite variety.

Filed under Matcha

Yuki thinks simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. His most significant accomplishment is learning how to sit with a good cup of tea and listen. When not online, Yuki talks with all things wild and free. He is a blogger and a matcha lover.

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