How I learned entirely too much about tea: 3 books to get you started

I’ve been nerding out on tea for about 17 months now.

Sometime around January 2017–that classic time of year when I join millions of self-evaluating people around the world and consider various personal goals to pursue–I decided to more or less quit coffee and get into tea. I wanted to quit because I had a wicked afternoon slump. I also recalled hearing somewhere that tea is supposedly better for your health.

To be clear: tea is not better than coffee, nor is coffee better than tea. In the last 17 months, I’ve learned a fine appreciation for both. While I do prefer tea or herbal blends on most days, coffee has its occasional warm place in my life. But today we’re here to appreciate all things tea!

The first thing I do when I suddenly become interested in a new subject is buy a bunch of books and learn about it from all angles. Then I cherrypick the information I find most useful or relevant and forget the rest. This habit is why my memory is so selective. I forget nearly everything. That is why instead of teaching you all about tea– a subject I once knew practically everything about– I am going to give you a few resources I found most helpful when obsessing about this topic.

In no particular order, here are 3 books I found helpful while learning All Things Tea:

1. To learn about health benefits…

The Everything Healthy Tea Book by Babette Donaldson is an excellent introduction to the wonderful world of tea. Babette clearly loves her tea and does an excellent job walking the newbie through everything from tea accessories to tea history. I love how logically this book is organized. It spends a full chapter on each of the 5 kinds of tea (green, black, white, oolong, pu’erh) and details the associated health claims and benefits of each. There is also a handy reference in the back for using old tea leaves. Accessible and entertaining, it was easy to read cover-to-cover without tiring of the subject.

2. To learn about history…

The Story of Tea by Mary Lou and Robert Heiss is the work of a husband-wife duo who live and love tea. Ok, to begin, I have not finished reading this book yet! Ah! Not quite coffee table size, I have the hardback version with glossy pages, so it feels like a good book to browse. Flipping through it and looking at the table of contents, you can tell this book is a true gem. It covers everything from the history of tea to the ethics in the tea trade to how to brew the perfect cup. It’s a beautiful go-to for all things tea.

3. To learn about philosophy…

The Book of Tea by Kakuzu Okakura is a tea philosophy classic, originally published in English and for a western audience. Authored by a Japanese man caught between two worlds, The Book of Tea highlights the social and cultural differences between East and West, paying close to attention to the aesthetic appeal and social-philosophical significance of tea culture and the tea ceremony. This book is less about the tea leaf and more about what the tea leaf means.

In addition to reading books and articles, I also visited a few local tea rooms and shops to sample loose teas and herbal blends. I found these experiences very enriching to my newfound hobby and recommend doing the same if you can. Talking about tea, trying teas, and learning all about tea accessories is so much fun. Enjoy your tea journey!

What are your favorite tea resources, websites, or book recommendations for learning about/buying tea?