Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Way of Tea: The Sublime Art of Oriental Tea Drinking

Book: The Way of Tea: The Sublime Art of Oriental Tea Drinking.

This was another introduction to tea level book. I thought that this book might be a nice insight into Gong-fu brewing with some interesting details, I was wrong. I'm surprised that this book was ever published. Looking at the credentials of the author it is written by a Feng Shui / Tai Chi master. He doesn't have any particular credentials to be a source on tea aside from being steeped in chinese cultural heritage. This is apparent in this book because of the differences between most used spellings / classifications. For instance he classifies teas under: White, Yellow, Light Green, Green, Red, Black, and Flower. Oolongs are referenced in the Light Green section, and what I believe may be Puerh is referred to as Polee, is under green teas. While most people don't use this classification system, I don't deny it's possible validity, but as an introductory book I think it would confuse people more than teach. Since most tea vendors use a different classification system than this one in the book.

Other oddities I noticed in this book were reference to Jixing purple clay pots, which I took to refer to yixing. I could understand that this may just be a different romanification of the word, but considering the uniformity of the vernacular used and yixing being a more accepted spelling that this could be confusing.

There is a section on gong fu brewing which is nicely illustrated, but it only covers the topic in the broadest of terms and simplest of brewing methods.

The thing that surprised me the most about this book is that considering the subtitle (The Sublime Art of Oriental Tea Drinking) it really only makes any reference to Gong Fu brewing. Gaiwans are referenced, but never by name. There is only a cursory mention of the existence of matcha preparation as a side note. No mention of brewing of any Japanese or any other style of tea is mentioned. (I find this important given the title referring to it as Oriental and not Chinese specifically).

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion: This book would most likely confuse most readers rather than educate them on anything. The author does not seem to have much reason for credibility, but rather feels like this is written mostly based on whatever oral stories they could remember. The spellings are rather different than many regularly used, and almost look like different words. I suggest sticking to a more mainstream introductory book.

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