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Recent tea reads

 

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I’ve never really showed my share of books on tea around here. It’s always been a series of random books that I personally find interesting, which can range from business books to traditional fairy tales (you’re most likely to find me in bookstores around town …). But since you’re here now and probably a fellow tea and books lover, I want to share with you some of the most fascinating reads on tea, its origins and making, as well as the cultural connotations that the cup carries.

 

How to Make Tea: The Science Behind the Leaf by Brian R. Keating and Kim Long

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For a 160-page book, this is a comprehensive read on tea basics and technical aspects of making the brew. If I have to sum it up in a short sentence, it’ll be “A definitive how-to article of everything you need to know about tea in book form” :p Not formal and definitely non-boring, so please don’t judge the book by its title :) If you’re a newfound lover of tea, I highly recommend How to Make Tea as your brewing companion.

P.S. The book features simple diagrams and lined illustrations along with its texts.


 

识茶·泡茶·品茶 (彩图版)

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If you can read and understand simplified Mandarin Chinese, you should definitely get this book. I found it at a Kinokuniya bookstore, and it was on sale. So yeap, how could I not get it?! Everything you need to know about tea in China, with an encyclopedic introduction to the different types of Chinese teas along with how to best enjoy them respectively spanning the first half of the book, and with traditional tea recipes and their health benefits for soothing all sorts of ailments covering the second half of it. What I love most was that it’s modern, easy to understand, and highly applicable. So get the gem from the Chinese-language sales section of Kinokuniya, stat.

 
 

 
 
 

The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard

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Better known as The Tea Stylist, Linda Gaylard is your go-to gal for learning how to love the cup of joy. Just because tea originated from China doesn’t mean Indians, Africans, Japanese, the Brits, or even Indonesians cannot enjoy the brew. Personally, I think this is highly condensed book about tea for the general public, but what I find helpful in your tea journey was the beautiful visuals and infographics throughout the pages – they really help you learn. The contents were neatly divided according to what the average Joe Schmoe would be interested in when he’s first introduced to tea, but probably still hasn’t delved deeper yet into its world. If you can’t tell the difference between Chinese red tea and rooibos tea, I highly recommend getting this guide for your toilet reading ;) The last chapters of the book features both tea and tisane recipes for you to try at home. Neat, huh?


 
 

The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Old Chinese Tea Masters by Warren Peltier

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Now if you’re the artsy-fartsy type (like I am) and is reaaally into the long, complex history behind the beverage, what made it so popular around the world, and the rich culture that it’s bore, I super duper recommend The Ancient Art of Tea. Just a couple of weeks ago I discussed what I learned about the factors affecting the taste of your tea when it concerns to companionship – do you enjoy it better in solitude, or with a friend? Turns out the ancient practitioners, i.e. the experts, claimed that tea is best enjoyed alone. I would argue that it’s best when you make it for your good tea-loving friend, but that’s just one of the interesting things you’ll learn from this handy 6-inch (square) hardcover. Its customs, rituals, and etiquettes are all classic wisdom for making tea your natural way of life.


 
 

 
 
 

So which one of these reads piqued your interest the most?

 
 
 

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Currently reading: Quirkology + notes


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Quirkology by Richard Wiseman, page xvi

I gotta admit, the book description alone got me hooked, and so I got this impulsively. But Quirkology turned to be a fascinating read, particularly if you have an affinity with trivia and are the type who questions everything. In the introductory pages, you’ll already learn many intriguing findings from the most unusual aspects of psychological research. One study that intrigued me was that of Victorian polymath Francis Galton, who devoted his life to offbeat topics throughout his scholastic career. Wiseman noted that, as with all scientists, Galton was so bothered by the mystery behind preparing the perfect cup of tea that he actually conducted tests to find out the exact temperature and steeping time to produce the best-tasting brew … at least, for his taste:

Even the making of tea caught Galton’s attention, what he spent months scientifically determining the best way to brew the perfect cup of tea. Having constructed a special thermometer that allowed him constantly to monitor the temperature of the water inside the teapot, after much rigorous testing Galton concluded that:

. . . the tea was full bodied, full tasted, and in no way bitter or flat . . . when the water in the teapot had remained between 180 and 190 degrees F (82.2 and 87.8 degrees C), and had stood eight minutes on the leaves.1

Satisfied with the thoroughness of his investigation, Galton proudly declared, “There is no other mystery in the teapot.”

 

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Interestingly enough, there’s a similar study recently published on The Journal of Food Science that compares the antioxidant capacity of each tea type depending on how it’s prepared, with also both the water temperature and steeping time factoring in the study. Now we know that to get more antioxidants out of your brew:

  • White tea:
    – Leave steeping time longer (up to 2 hours) in hot water
  • Green tea:
    – Leave steeping time longer (up to 2 hours) in cold water, or
    – leave steeping time short (up to 5 minutes) in hot water
  • Black tea:
    – Keep steeping time short (3-5 minutes) in hot water

While I firmly believe every individual best enjoys their cup of tea differently (and by individual I also mean Galton himself), at least we now know what’s the best way to get the most out of the nirvana.


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So my question to you is this: How are you going to brew your next cup of tea?

 



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 Footnote(s):

  1. The Art of Travel, or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries []
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Tea and company

 

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Our rowdy coffee and tea tasting experience during an agro-tour in Ubud, Bali, a while ago.

Don’t know about you, but I grew up preferring having my cup of tea alone. Warm matcha with dark chocolate bits have been my most loyal and trustworthy companion ever since my high school days, to soothe me in the late afternoons of crying over boys and lift me up during the boring bits of trashy novels. Throughout those years I’ve grown this intimate relationship with the entire process of preparing tea. So to say the beverage is a non-living thing is almost a sin. Much more than it is a beverage to be drunk, it’s a sensation to be felt, and nothing else in the world can compare to experiencing tea at its essence.

Of the many factors that affect the volatile essence (and consequently taste) of tea, the presence of company is one that fascinates me the most. Two commentaries from the wide array of tea books published during the Ming Dynasty 明朝 took note of this almost sacred solitary act of brewing and steeping tea, both mentioned in Chapter 4, ‘The Taste of Tea’, of Warren Peltier’s The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Old Chinese Tea Masters. Calligrapher-painter Chen Ji Ru 陈继儒 described in his Majestic Affairs on Cliff Couch:

In tasting tea, one person can taste tea’s essence;
two people can taste tea’s delight;
three people can taste tea’s flavor;
but six or seven people together can only be called
using (drinking) tea.

Scholar Zhang Yuan 张源 further elaborated on this commentary in Record of Tea later on, stating:

Drinking tea is most valued when there are few guests;
where there is a multitude of people there is clamor;
when there is clamor tasteful interest is lacking!
Solitary sipping is called peaceful;
two guests are called elegant;
three to four people are called a delight;
five to six people are called common;
seven to eight people are called depraved.

I find these commentaries to be very true – even three is sometimes a crowd when it comes to tea, as if with every additional company, its full flavor, color, and aroma gets diluted. Over my lifetime, the people I’ve met are mostly coffee lovers over tea, roughly on a ratio of 5:1. That’s why when I do come across the tea-loving minority, I always feel like I just met another soul mate. It’s not that tea lovers are rare, considering it’s the second most consumed beverage after water. Just that from what I observed, tea lovers are often simply seeking some grounding in this caffeine-dependent world, savoring their sipping time now more than ever as it seems increasingly harder to stay afloat.

There is healing when you listen to waters ripple as they flow to your teacup; there is pleasure even just watching the tea leaves expand during steeping. But as I grow older, I found that the best tea experience is when you’re having the jade nectar with your favorite tea-loving friend, sharing the most precious and memorable conversations over a leisurely cup of delight.

How about you? Do you enjoy tea more during your private hours or with a friend?

 
 
 


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Currently revisiting: The Sacred History + The Secret History of the World

 

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The Sacred History by Jonathan Black, page 176

“Elijah, the Buddha, Socrates and Apollonius brought spiritual awareness and understanding to the world – the knowledge that we are all interconnected, that we should show compassion to every living thing, that we must play our part in the world’s evolving. They all knew on some level what was happening and what had to happen, but it was Jesus Christ who brought the power that made it happen. He had the power to turn history on its hinges. Elijah, Buddha, Pythagoras brought faith and hope, but Jesus Christ brought love.

 

 
 

 
 
 

The Secret History of the World by Mark Booth, page 21

“To today’s most advanced thinkers, academics like Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simony Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, and other militant materialists who regulate and maintain the scientific world-view, the mind of God’ is no better than the idea of a white-haired old man up above the clouds. It is the same mistake, they say, that children and primitive tribes make when they assume God must be like them – the anthropomorphic fallacy. Even if we allowed that God might conceivably exist, they say, why on earth should ‘He’ be like us? Why should ‘His’ mind be in any way like ours?

The fact is that they’re right. Of course there is no reason at all … unless it’s the other way round. In other words, the only reason why God’s mind might be like ours is if ours was made to be like His – that is, if God made us in His image.

 

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Currently reading: I Know How She Does It

 

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I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam, page 127-128

“Fortunately, being mindful of your time – making a commitment to be there physically and mentally and enjoy life while doing so – makes memories possible. We control a lot less about our children’s outcomes in life than we think. They are their own people. But one thing parents do shape is whether kids remember their childhoods as happy. Creating a happy home is a conscious choice, as is creating a happy marriage.”

 

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Currently reading: Grey

 

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Grey by E. L. James, page 529

“How could she trust me after that? It’s right that she’s gone.
Why the hell would she want to be with me, anyway?

I contemplate getting drunk. I have not been drunk since I was fifteen—well, once, when I was twenty-one. I loathe the loss of control: I know what alcohol can do to a man. I shudder and snap my mind shut to those memories, and decide to call it a night.

Lying in my bed, I pray for a dreamless sleep . . . but if I am to dream, I want to dream of her.

 

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Currently revisiting: Japanese Fairy Tales

 

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Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki, page 50

A gentle reminder on keeping your word from the legend of Urashima Taro~

“The Princess told me when she gave me the box never to open it—that it contained a very precious thing. But now that I have no home, now that I have lost everything that was dear to me here, and my heart grows thin with sadness, at such a time, if I open the box, surely I shall find something that will help me, something that will show me the way back to my beautiful Princess over the sea. There is nothing else for me to do now. Yes, yes, I will open the box and look in!”

And so his heart consented to this act of disobedience, and he tried to persuade himself that he was doing the right thing in breaking his promise.

 

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Airport reading: Books to bring along with you

 

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Continue reading Airport reading: Books to bring along with you

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Currently revisiting: A Wrinkle in Time

 

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, page 117

N.B. Disney’s making a movie of it.

“Let’s go back.” Calvin started to pull away.
“No,” Charles Wallace said. “I have to go on. We have to make decisions, and we can’t make them if they’re based on fear.

 

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