Wednesday, 6 June 2007

A Tea Lover's Companion by Jane Pettigrew

This was the first book I bought when I first became interested in tea and as a first step in understanding the huge range of teas currently available it is invaluable. As well as discussing the history of tea and its manufacture and classification, the authors describe all the major and minor tea producing nations and provide a thorough guide to their main teas. The character of 80 teas are described in some detail, and brewing advice is provided along with colour photographs of both dry and wet leaves and their infusion.
An example of Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson engaging writing style can be seen in the following description of Jade Rings:
"These rings are made in Guanshan by meticulously hand-rolling silvery-white, green tea shoots into small rings. Character: When infused, the little rings open up to create a magnificent cup of tea. The flavour from these early spring buds is subtle, sweet and classic."
and of Longjing (Dragon Well or Lung Ching),
"This tea is named after the village where it grows in Zhejiang province. The best grade is made from one new bud and one new leaf; it is not rolled or shaped but left in its natural, neatly pointed form. Character: The buds point upwards while brewing and release a clear, light yellowy-green colour. The clean well-balanced aroma suggests freshly cut grass and toasted chestnuts. The flavour is mellow with a bittersweet-savoury finish."

My only criticism is that once you start tasting tea seriously and start exploring the 1000s of teas available you'll long for greater depth of information on a greater range of teas. However, it does pack a huge amount of information into less than 200 pages and I frequently refer to it whenever I need clarification on any point of history, manufacture or classification.

Jane Pettigrew runs a regular tea masterclass in London. Her new book "The Connoisseur's Guide to Tea: Discover the World's Most Exquisite Tea Leaves" was published in February 2007.
Bruce Richardson runs Elmwood Inn Fine Teas and the website lists many of his articles about tea.

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