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A LI TTLE TEA BO O K B L O O M S B U RY P U B L I S H I N G Bloomsbury Publishing Inc. 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA | www.bloomsbury.com B L O O M S B U RY, B L O O M S B U RY P U B L I S H I N G , and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in the United States 2018 Copyright © Sebastian Beckwith and Caroline Paul, 2018 Illustrations © Wendy MacNaughton, 2018 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. ISBN: HB: 978-1-63286-902-9 eBook: 978-1-63286-904-3 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Beckwith, Sebastian, author. | Paul, Caroline, author. Title: A little tea book : all the essentials from leaf to cup / Sebastian Beckwith with Caroline Paul ; illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton. Description: New York : Bloomsbury Publishing Inc., 2018. | Includes bibliographical references. Identifiers: LCCN 2017057967| ISBN 978-1-63286-902-9 (hardcover) | ISBN 978-1-63286-904-3 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Tea. Classification: LCC TP650 .B43 2018 | DDC 641.3/372—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017057967 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1 Designed by Sara Stemen Printed and bound in TK To find out more about our authors and books visit www.bloomsbury.com and sign up for our newsletters. Bloomsbury books may be purchased for business or promotional use. For information on bulk purchases please contact Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department at specialmarkets@macmillan.com.

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To Lois and Jacques Beckwith, who encouraged me to follow my passion.


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“We had a kettle; we let it leak: Our not repairing made it worse. We haven’t had any tea for a week... The bottom is out of the Universe.” —Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling

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Introduction  1 A little on the tea plant  5 A little on the six types of tea  7 A little on shape and size  21 A little on the taxonomy  27 A little on names  33 A little history  39 A little on choosing tea  51

A little on altered tea  59 A little on dark tea, sometimes called fermented tea or heicha  67

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A little on labels  71 A little on the health benefits of tea  81 A little confusion  85 A little to add  91 A little on preparation  97 Acknowledgments  111 Glossary  113 Recommended Reading  125 Index  127

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Y

ou’re holding this book because you too love tea. Perhaps you can’t begin a morning without a cup of English

Breakfast. You may have a favorite mug. You might carry that mug to work, along with an assortment of teabags. Yet you don’t know much about your beloved brew, and exploring it further seems to require fancy porcelain, a NASA thermometer, and a sheepdog’s discerning nose. As the venues expand—your local café may now sell loose teas—and choices proliferate, it’s even more intimidating. Quick searches on your smartphone (tea, Sencha Fukamushi, what???) leave you baffled. A Little Tea Book is for you. There are many lengthy tea books, authored by great minds,

which attempt to delve into every aspect of tea. A Little Tea Book is different: It’s an accessible primer delivering basic, but thorough, information. You will find here a wide range of material, but it’s not a textbook or encyclopedia. In other words, I’m offering you a little about a lot. A Little Tea Book will start you on your way, 1


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I N TR O D U C TI O N

offering a solid foundation (and a boatload of confidence) from which you can then continue the exploration—by yourself, and with family, friends, and colleagues. Over the past two decades I’ve forded high rivers in Bhutan, hiked through remote Lao villages, and climbed miles of terraced land in China, all to find the best-quality tea for the finest restaurants in the country. I started my company, In Pursuit of Tea, to source these single-lot, traditionally made, loose-leaf teas direct from origin. During my adventures I’ve talked to scores of tea fanatics, discussed flavor and pairings with every manner of foodie, and exchanged ideas with tea purveyors and farmers around the world. But my true joy is talking tea with people who are new to it. I’ve trained sommeliers and servers at restaurants that include Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I’ve sat for hours with curious friends sampling fresh picks from my travels. Over the years, many people have begun their tea journey with me, and have been inspired to continue it. My life’s work has been teaching people about tea, and now I am honored to teach you.

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A little on the tea plant

A

ll tea comes from just one plant, Camellia sinensis. One plant! This is the first of many facts that surprise

even the most enthusiastic tea drinker. There are six basic types of tea—white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and dark—and all of them originate only from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. This means that many of the beverages you’ve assumed are teas are not technically teas at all. Chamomile? Ginger Spice? Licorice Heaven? Jasmine Soothing Nighty Night? They can be tasty. But they’re not tea. You can call them tisanes (if you’re European), infusions (if you’re a tea-o-phile), herbals (if you’re Californian), or just hot drinks (if you’re me). The real stuff is made from the caffeine-containing Camellia sinensis, meaning white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and dark teas are all true teas; anything else is made from other plants. A general rule of thumb is that if there isn’t caffeine, it isn’t Camellia sinensis (unless, of course, it’s a tea that’s been decaffeinated). 5


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A little on the six types of tea

T

o understand what ultimately ends up in our cup, let’s pluck a leaf from our tea plant, Camellia sinensis. This is

the first step in the tea-making process. When the Camellia sinensis leaf is picked, oxidation

begins. With tea, oxidation means that the polyphenols (chemical compounds such as tannins, flavonoids, and theaflavins) and the enzymes in the leaf react with the oxygen in the air. Depending on the type of tea being made, this process will occur over a short or long time. For green tea, no oxidation is allowed to occur, so the leaf retains its fresh smell and vegetal flavor; black tea is as fully oxidized as possible, which accounts for its dark color. The order of tea categories from least to most oxidized is generally green, yellow, white, oolong, black, and dark. Other influential roles are played by air temperature, humidity, heat source, and storage time. This means things like wilting, twisting, rolling, heating, drying, resting, and 7


A LI TTLE O N TH E SI X TYPE S OF T E A

fer­­menting the leaves all have an effect. Though oxidation is usually the prime determinant, every one of these components may have a say in what type of tea emerges at the end. Are we just picking the leaf and laying it out, doing very little except allowing some natural oxidation (white tea)? Or are we intervening by heating the leaf, then rolling it into various shapes (green tea)? Are we making green tea, but then storing it on a shelf to undergo fermentation (dark tea)? Let’s look at all six types of tea, in order of those that we influence the least to those we influence the most. White tea: Minimal interference here: This leaf is generally only picked and air-dried (also known as withered ). It is usually harvested in the spring, when there are fresh new leaves and the unopened buds are still covered with silky white hair. During the drying process there may be some oxidation, which stops naturally when enough moisture evaporates from the leaf. It can be made up of just the downy buds when picked early in the season, as in Yinzhen Silver Needle; when picked a few weeks later, there will be both buds and small leaves, as in White Peony Bai Mudan. White tea originated in China’s Fujian Province. 11


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Green tea: When the leaf is picked and then heated almost immediately by pan-firing or steaming, oxidation is prevented. This accounts for the green tea leaf’s color, ranging from an earthy olive to a deep emerald. The leaf is then formed into a variety of shapes. The first kind of tea ever produced, this category is traditionally made in China, Japan, and Korea. Long Jing, Bi Luo Chun, sencha, matcha, and gyokuro are just a few of hundreds of distinctive green teas.

What’s really happening to the tea leaf during processing? We now commonly use the term oxidation, but the preferred term for many years was fermentation (a direct translation of the Chinese term fajiao). In fact, the complex chemical reaction between the leaf’s enzymes and polyphenols can be more accurately described as enzymatic browning. This is a well-known concept in food science, and it is exemplified by the gradual darkening of sliced avocado or apple when exposed to air. The more general term oxidation, however, is currently widely accepted.

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Yellow tea: Found mostly in Anhui and Sichuan Province in China, this type is made much like green tea but it is heated to a lower temperature. More moisture is retained in the leaf, which is then allowed to dry slowly and oxidize slightly over a low charcoal fire for a few days. This style was common centuries ago. However, as yellow tea takes more effort and time to produce than green tea, it is now increasingly hard to find.

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A LI TTLE TEA BO O K

Tea plants can reach heights of more than thirty feet, but they are most often pruned approximately waist high for easy plucking. When a tea plant is three to five years old, its leaves are usually ready for picking and processing.

Oolong tea: Picked and often bruised to encourage interactions between the leaf’s enzymes and polyphenols, this style is allowed to partially oxidize before undergoing shaping and heating. The shaping, which entails extensive rolling or twisting, makes oolongs more processed than white, green, and yellow teas. This type of tea requires great skill to make, and yields a wide range of flavor and fragrance. Oolongs have incredible complexity and the ability to be steeped over and over, offering nuanced flavors and aromas with each infusion. High-quality oolongs often come from regions in China (such as Wuyishan, Phoenix Mountain, and Anxi) and Taiwan (notably Nantou and Miaoli counties). Black tea: This type of tea likes as much oxidation as possible. First the leaf is left to wilt, losing moisture, stiffness, and weight. 16


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LOST IN TRANSLATION Matcha is a powdered Japanese green tea. In recent years it has expanded from its traditional roots, such as with this delicious cocktail created by Marcie Anderson at Restaurant Daniel in New York City. 2 tablespoons Avua Prata Cachaca 2 tablespoons Mizu Shochu 1 tablespoon lime juice 1½ tablespoons simple syrup 1 gram matcha, plus more for garnish 1 egg white Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Dry shake, then shake with ice; strain into wide clay bowl or preferred vessel, without ice. Garnish with dusting of matcha powder. Makes one cocktail.

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A LI TTLE O N TH E SI X TYPE S OF T E A

Then it is rolled, which encourages oxidation by breaking open cell walls. After a rest of a period of hours it is fired. This is the most widely produced style of tea, and is often what people in the West expect when asking for a “regular tea.� Assam and Darjeeling are well-known styles from northern India; Ceylon, from Sri Lanka, and Keemun, from China, are also very popular. English Breakfast falls in this category, though this is usually comprised of commercial black teas: grown in many countries, mechanically harvested and processed, and then blended for consistency. Dark tea: This category encompasses subsets of tea that can be quite different. The most common is called pu-erh, which is roughly processed as green tea then set aside to age and mellow. During this period the tea continues to undergo change, including fermentation, from several months to many decades, which is why I consider this the tea type subject to the most outside influences. Pu-erh was originally the name of a trading town in Yunnan Province, China, where farmers would bring their tea to sell.

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A Little Tea Book sampler  
A Little Tea Book sampler  
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