The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide

By Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J Heiss


This is the book we recommend when you want to take a deep dive into the world of tea throughout the world and history. Whether it’s a delicate green tea or a bracing Assam black, a cup of tea is a complex brew of art and industry, tradition and revolution, East and West. In this sweeping tour through the world of tea, veteran tea traders Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss chronicle tea’s influence across the globe and provide a complete reference for choosing, drinking, and enjoying this beverage.

The Story of Tea begins with a journey along the tea trail, from the lush forests of China, where tea cultivation first flourished, to the Buddhist temples of Japan, to the vast tea gardens of India, and beyond. Offering an insider’­s view of all aspects of tea trade, the Heisses examine Camellia sinensis, the tea bush, and show how subtle differences in territory and production contribute to the diversity of color, flavor, and quality in brewed tea. They profile more than thirty essential tea varietals, provide an in depth guide to tasting and brewing, and survey the customs and crafts associated with tea. Sharing the latest research, they discuss tea’s health benefits and developments in organic production and fair trade practices. Finally, they present ten sweet and savory recipes, including Savory Chinese Marbled Eggs and Green Tea Pot de Crâme, and resources for purchasing fine tea.

Vividly illustrated throughout, The Story of Tea is an engrossing tribute to the illustrious, invigorating, and elusive leaf that has sustained and inspired people for more than two thousand years.

Published by Ten Speed Press

Oct 01, 2007 | 432 Pages | Hardcover | 7-1/2 x 9 | ISBN 9781580087452

“Sip your way around the world with this expansive look at nature’s perfect beverage.” —Natural Health

“Everything you’d want to know about one of the world’s favorite drinks.” —Bon Appetit

“They know how to fill the cup. History, geography, drinking, steeped in facts and photos.” —Newsday

“The Heiss’s book is at once the best and only one you’­ll ever need on the subject. It’­s a well-brewed and tasty pot indeed.” —Library Journal, Starred Review

“With their first-hand accounts, meticulous research and passion for the subject, The Story of Tea has all the makings of becoming the definitive source for tea. And it’s time-for a tea book of this caliber.” —

“Massachusetts-based specialty food purveyors travel the world learning everything they can about tea and then share it all in this encyclopedic but enthusiastic work. Learn about tea varieties, tea customs, cooking with tea (there are 10 recipes) and, most important, how to brew the perfect cup.” —Chicago Tribune

“Put this in your cup and sip it: The Story of Tea will take you around the world and back home again, hopefully with a fine cup of tea in your hands.” —Kansas City Star

“A comprehensive, lavishly illustrated guide to tea history, lore, cultivation and appreciation.” —New York Times

“It’­s a beautiful gift for your new neighbors whether they just like to wave a tea bag of weak ‘«fannings’­ over hot water or if they take the time to brew a cup of loose yellow tea.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“One of the most complete books on tea available. Best of all, it is fun to read about the most consumed beverage in the world, and one that has a culture and history every bit as rich and varied as its taste.” —Tucson Citizen

“An engaging historical and cultural study, this guide is geared toward both novice and consummate consumers intrigued by the world’s 2,000-year-old tea habit.” —Publishers Weekly

“With the publication of this encyclopedic and generously detailed guide, we now have a reference to consult for the what, where, when, who, how, or why of any tea. Reading THE STORY OF TEA, we get caught up in the mysteries and traditions of tea growing and processing.” —Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, authors of Mangoes and Curry Leaves

“Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss take on tea in all of its multilayered complexity. Encompassing history and modernity, fact and lore, they have laid out as complete a book on the tea plant and beverage as has been published in many years. The firsthand experiences shared in this work underpin their obvious love for all things tea, all around the world.” —Eliot Jordan, director of tea for Peet’­s Coffee and Tea

“Here is the first truly comprehensive cultural history of tea, from its cultivation and manufacture to the politics, ethics, and aesthetics of its drinking-all conveyed with deep knowledge and a passion that captures the romance of this extraordinary leaf. THE STORY OF TEA belongs on every library shelf and kitchen counter.” —Darra Goldstein, editor-in-chief of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

“THE STORY OF TEA is an extraordinary volume, a compellingly good read with stunning photography. As a tea enthusiast wanting to share my fervor with others, I am especially grateful for the glossary of lyrical and evocative yet authoritative terminology. Thank you, Mary Lou and Robert, for creating such a comprehensive and delightful book.” —Elizabeth Andoh, author of Washoku: Recipes from a Japanese Home Kitchen

“For more than seventy-five years, William H. Ukers’­s All About Tea has generally been considered the bible of the tea industry-that is, up until now. THE STORY OF TEA is a sweeping treatise that will serve as required reading for generations of tea professionals and consumers seeking to expand their knowledge.” —Joseph P. Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA