It seems that the boom in tea culture in North America has been accompanied by a boom in tea publishing as well. I’ve read a few books about tea already, like the one published by Camellia Sinensis Tea House and For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose. However, I’m a sucker for new books on the topic, and Linda Gaylard’s primer is a fine one.
Linda Gaylard is a certified tea sommelier, a professional who pairs tea with foods much like a “regular” sommelier does with wine. (She also lives in Toronto, like me. Hi, Linda!) The Tea Book is her guide to the world of tea for those interested in its history, cultivation, and integration into cuisine.
I found this to be a fairly comprehensive primer — it contains a lot of knowledge for beginners (eg: what all the different types of tea are and how they are produced), but enough specialized information beyond the tea basics that I felt like I learned a lot of new information. In particular, I appreciated the look at tea production across the world. Gaylard covers the usual places like China, India, and Japan, but also discusses tea agriculture in more far-flung locales like Turkey, South Korea, and the United States. (Yes, the U.S. actually does produce tea!)
I also appreciated the multi-page spreads on various tea ceremonies across the world — there’s a lot of info about how these rituals are practiced not only in China and Japan, but also Korea and Morocco. The photography is very vivid and well-done.
In addition to its look at tea cultivation, history, and consumption around the world, Gaylard’s book includes a large variety of tea recipes for things like tea cocktails, chais, kombucha, and more. The recipe section takes up nearly half the book and includes a large variety of recipes for ways to prepare black, green, oolong, white, herbal and pu’erh teas in new and interesting combinations.
I decided to try this myself, actually. Here’s the recipe I followed.
Grape Goddess Tea
Green grapes lighten this infusion in taste and color, and give it a fruity sweetness suggestive of a dry white wine. The fragrant tea anchors the infusion with deep, sweet flavours.
- 15 seedless green grapes, halved
- 2/3 cup of boiling water, plus 3 cups of water heated to 195°F (90°C)
- 2 tbsp Tie Guan Yin leaves (I used these ones from Yunnan Sourcing)
- Place half the grapes in a teapot and muddle them gently with a muddler or pestle to release some juice. Add the remaining grapes, then add the boiling water and set aside to infuse.
- Place the tea leaves in a separate teapot, add the heated water, and infuse for 3 minutes.
- Strain the tea into the grape infusion and leave to infuse for an additional 3 minutes.
I chose this recipe because the ingredients were much easier to source than some of the others in Gaylard’s book. Other recipes include more obscure herbs like woodruff and lemon myrtle, as well as produce like kumquats, dried figs, and Asian pears.
The resulting brew of grape/oolong blend was pale golden with wisps of grape pulp. It tasted quite sour, actually. I could taste the Tie Guan Yin underneath, but it didn’t play as well with the seedless grapes as I was expecting.
Also, I have to admit that I raised my eyebrows quite a bit at the quantity of leaf being recommended in this recipe. Two whole tablespoons of leaf for 3-4 cups of tea? I suppose you need that much to have enough body to go up against the grapes, but it sounded like a lot.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Linda Gaylard’s willingness to explore tea across the world, but the recipes might be hard for others to follow, since they require a lot of leaf and possibly some trips to the fine foods store.