The Book of Tea

“The outsider may indeed wonder at this seeming much ado about nothing. What a tempest in a tea-cup! he will say. But when we consider how small after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity, we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup. Mankind has done worse.” (The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo)

As much as this blog has to do with books, it also has to do with tea. Okakura Kakuzo’s poetic history of tea and brief treatise of eastern vs. western culture is a thin must-read for the combined book and tea lover. Read it to delight in Okakura Kakuzo’s incredible use of language and celebration of this favorite of beverages, but don’t dismiss this book as a sweet little thing – Okakura doesn’t shy away from philosophy or spirituality here and he might exercise some of your less-used reading muscles.

Since I do recommend a beverage to go with each book, and as that beverage is more often tea than not, I am going to give a little ‘tea staples’ guide here. I am also currently stocking up my own tea library after having neglected it for some time, and plan to purchase as much as I can of the below. There are few things worse than knowing the perfect tea for the occasion but being unable to drink it!

Black:

Vanilla Black by Rishi Tea – one of the few vanilla teas I’ve had where the bitterness of the black tea doesn’t overpower the vanilla. Instead they work in perfect harmony to produce a robust, flavorful tea even on the second brew.

English Breakfast by Twinings – although Twinings has recently adapted a horrid new cover design, their tea is as classic as ever and English Breakfast is simply a must have for daily occasions.

Lady Grey by Twinings – a lovely floral twist on the classic bergamot flavor of Earl Grey. This is a lighter, happier cup of tea than the classic English Breakfast and would compliment a sunny spring day wonderfully.

Oolong:

Iron Goddess of Mercy by Rishi Tea – my absolute favorite daily tea. It withstands the most neglectful brewing and always comes up with the perfect blend of smoky, bitter and light flavors.

Green:

Jasmine Pearls by Rishi Tea – expensive but absolutely worthwhile when you compare this jasmine to your normal, washed-out, watery supermarket variety. The jasmine works with the green tea instead of perfuming the whole palette, so you still get that grassy, slightly bitter tea flavor underneath.

Organic Hojicha by Mighty Leaf – a dark, smoky tea almost reminiscent of Genmaicha (popcorn tea). It has surprising and most unusual flavor and is conveniently packaged in a silk bag.

White: I haven’t found a consistent white tea favorite, but white tea usually goes well with a light sort of flavoring such as pear, cocoanut or ginger and I am sure that Mighty Leaf or Rishi have several lovely examples.

As far as other notable teas go, Rishi’s Masala Chai and its Organic Cinnamon plum are luxurious and exotic flavors. When it is available (usually around the holidays), Tazo’s Joy tea is a nice, sharp blend of black, green and oolong

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