TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

October 8, 2014

Review: A new tea book

I recently received a copy of Modern Tea: A fresh look at an ancient beverage, the new book by Lisa Boalt Richardson, who is best known in the cyberworld as Lisa Knows Tea. As I had gotten out of the habit of blogging for some time it seemed like the perfect opportunity — or perhaps inspiration? — to resume my ruminations on tea and all things related to tea by reviewing this charming little book.

Modern Tea: A fresh look at an ancient beverageYou might think that with all the books about tea already on the market there is nothing new to say on the subject. Well, you would be mistaken. While Modern Tea is chock-full of the usual introductory tea topics — tea origins, types of teas,  how to purchase, steeping and storing recommendations — it also goes well beyond the basics.

For those who are beginning their journey into fine tea — or who you might want to lure into the world of tea! — Modern Tea provides everything they’ll need to know within its 164 pages. Lisa’s breezy writing style draws the reader in, as do the lush photos (by Jenifer Altman). Don’t be fooled by its slimness and casual demeanor, however; there’s good, in-depth content here.

And for those readers who are too cool for school, who know all the basic stuff, there are lots of details about the art of tea tasting, pairing tea with foods, and cooking with tea; on the other end of the process there’s a section on dark teas and tea processing in general, along with historical tidbits.

For me, the highlights of this book are the many personal reminiscences the author shares with us about her travels to tea-origin countries and her experiences in the tea fields and tea factories and tea houses. I’ve pretty much come to accept that it is unlikely that I will ever travel to the tea lands of Taiwan, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka, so these vicarious experiences are about as close as I’m ever going to get — and Lisa’s descriptions are so clearly painted that it really is almost like being there with her.

Whether you’re a tea newby, an old pro, or somewhere in between, you’re sure to find something new and interesting in Modern Tea. Drink up!

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November 5, 2008

Product review: Tea Room Cookbooks

Filed under: books,cooking,food,recipes,tea,tea books — by JanisB @ 4:11 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

ATR Publishing
Retail and wholesale
Book cover photo courtesy of An Afternoon to Remember; additional stock photo

Links open in a new window.

Do you like to serve tea at home to friends and family? Are you always looking for delicious new dishes to serve at tea time? If so, this series of tea room cookbooks may be just your cup of tea.

Afternoon teaThe recipes in these books, developed and collected by Amy Lawrence, owner of An Afternoon to Remember Tea Parlor in Newcastle, California, encompass the wide range of dishes she serves to her own tea room customers. In these pages you’ll find elegant savouries, diet-busting desserts, plenty (and I mean plenty) of creative scones, and a variety of other recipes.

Full disclosure: I am not only a vegetarian but a vegan, following a diet that includes absolutely no products of animal derivation. Because most tea rooms cannot accommodate these dietary requirements, I’ve had to develop my own tea time recipe collection.

But I do love to read cookbooks, especially when they have to do with tea, because invariably I find recipes that either suit my dietary requirements or can be made suitable with minimal substitutions. And so it is with these charming tea room cookbooks. After browsing through I discovered several appealing recipes, and have given a few of them a try — with excellent results.

Laura’s Best of Show Cookies, with buttery spread in place of butter, are just delicious. The combination of walnuts and jam just melts in your mouth, and they paired beautifully with a pot of Balasun Second Flush Darjeeling. I fixed the Balsamic Barbecue Sauce with an anchovy-free Worcestershire sauce, and it brought rave reviews. Formosa Gunpowder green tea nicely complemented the Nutty/Fruity Mandarin Wild Rice Salad, perfect as written.

I’m still working my way through the recipes in these books, and look forward to trying the Spicy Pecans, Blackberry Pie (if I can get to our bushes before the birds next year!), Garden Vegetable Tea Sandwiches, and the Rum Balls, among others.

Along with the recipes are serving tips and general instructions for making a good pot of tea. (As I have cautioned in previous reviews, ignore the “instant decaffeination process,” especially if caffeine is really a problem for you, because it doesn’t work.) Beginners to more experienced cooks and bakers will find inspiration in each and every volume of the series.

Drop by for TeaAlthough I much prefer cookbooks bound in a format that allows them to lie flat rather than fighting with a perfect-bound book, this is a small quibble when the content is this easy to read and the instructions so easy to follow.

Best of all, opposite each recipe page is a blank page for notes. Why isn’t every cookbook formatted this way? All of my cookbooks and recipe cards are marked up in the margins with almost illegible suggestions for variations, notations about reducing the quantity of sugar, or calculations for increasing or decreasing the number of servings and ingredients.

I tend to approach recipes as “jumping off points:” that is, you try it the first time as written, then the next time you tweak it to suit your own taste (or to use up what’s in your pantry). A recipe that calls for summertime peaches, for example, might be just as tasty when prepared with pears in the fall. Clearly Ms. Lawrence has “been there, done that,” and has devised a format that invites readers to be creative with her recipes. Brava!

Books are paperback and printed in the USA (as all books written and published in the USA should be) and are available from An Afternoon to Remember/ATR Publishing. So far there are five volumes. Each volume is sold separately; unfortunately not available as a collection. The shop also carries their own brand of teas, plus an array of accessories for your tea table. Resellers can click on the wholesale link and set up an account.

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