I’ve created a list of books about tea because tea is an integral part of our lives. In many cultures, it has its own rituals, and in many countries, it has its own hour of the day. Although it was discovered over 4000 years ago, we are still in love with tea, and we drink various kinds of it every day. So I think it would be only fair if we read books about tea while enjoying it. So I’ve created a list for both novels and nonfiction books. But to be honest, I’m mostly excited about the novels.
Here is a brief history of tea from TED-Ed if you are interested. Or you can skip to the lists below.
Books About Tea
The Teahouse Fire – Ellis Avery
Relocated from 1866 New York to Japan by an abusive missionary guardian. Young Aurelia Bernard befriends the daughter of Kyoto’s most influential tea master. Who accepts her into the family in spite of disapproving conventions and instructs her about the fading tradition of the tea ceremony. A first novel.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate–the first automobile any of them have seen–and a stranger arrives.
In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.
Teatime for the Firefly – Shona Patel
Layla’s life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam. Where the world’s finest tea thrives on plantations run by native labour and British efficiency.
Fascinated by this culture of whiskey-soaked ex-pats who seem fazed by neither earthquakes nor man-eating leopards. She struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize. And so the peculiar servants she now finds under her charge.
But navigating the tea-garden set will hardly be her biggest challenge. Layla’s remote home is not safe from the powerful changes sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial society is at a tipping point. And so Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.
The Tea Rose – Jennifer Donnelly
It is 1888 and Jack The Ripper is stalking the streets of Whitechapel. For the people that live there, he is just one more adversary in their everyday battle to survive. Despite working long days at the tea factory, and the constant threat of the Ripper, Fiona Finnegan knows that her life is better than some.
With a father in work, a roof over her head, enough to eat and a loving family to keep her warm, she is among ‘the respectable working poor.’ And she also has Joe. Fiona and Joe Bristow have been sweethearts for as long as anyone can remember, and are saving up their meagre wages so that some day, they can open their very own shop.
But things take a terrible turn for Fiona when events conspire to tear her. Joe and her family apart, and she finds herself alone in the world. The East End is a dangerous place to be alone. And so the Ripper isn’t the only one casting a dark shadow over her life. Somehow, she must escape, build a life for herself, and forget about Joe. But how can she? When Joe is the only man she has ever loved? The first instalment of Jennifer Donnelly’s acclaimed romance trilogy. The Tea Rose will leave you breathless, exhilarated, and longing for more.
The Tea Dragon Society – Katie O’Neill
From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.
After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives–and eventually her own. An interesting one among books about tea.
The Book of Tea – Kakuzo Okakura
‘Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.’
In this charming book from 1906, Okakura explores Zen, Taoism, Tea Masters and the significance of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Liquid Jade – Beatrice Hohenegger
Traveling from East to West over thousands of years, tea has played a variety of roles on the world scene – in medicine, politics, the arts, culture, and religion. Behind this most serene of beverages, idolized by poets and revered in spiritual practices, lie stories of treachery, violence, smuggling, drug trade, international espionage, slavery, and revolution.
“Liquid Jade”‘s rich narrative history explores tea in all its social and cultural aspects. Entertaining yet informative and extensively researched, “Liquid Jade” tells the story of western greed and eastern bliss. China first used tea as a remedy. Taoists celebrated tea as the elixir of immortality. Buddhist Japan developed a whole body of practices around tea as a spiritual path. Then came the traumatic encounter of the refined Eastern cultures with the first Western merchants, the trade wars, the emergence of the ubiquitous English East India Company.
“Liquid Jade” also depicts tea’s beauty and delights, not only with myths about the beginnings of tea or the lovers’ legend in the familiar blue-and-white porcelain willow pattern, but also with a rich and varied selection of works of art and historical photographs, which form a rare and comprehensive visual tea record.
World Atlas of Tea – Krisi Smith
A cup of tea is an everyday pleasure for people the world over. And increasingly there is a dizzying array of teas to choose from – from robust black tea to elegant green tea and everything in between. In fact every tea has a fascinating story to tell about the place in which it grew – from soil, climate and altitude to the choices its producers made in processing it. Then there are the myriad ways in which that tea can be prepared for your daily cup.
Tea mixologist Krisi Smith sets out what you need to know to appreciate teas of all descriptions – from harvesting and processing methods for different varieties to how to make the perfect cup. The world’s key tea-growing
regions and their best products are identified and their taste profiles explained – from China, Taiwan, Japan, India and Sri Lanka to Nepal, Vietnam and East Africa. The world of tea is fast-moving and Krisi also includes info on everything from blending teas to your own taste and some innovative recipes, to health benefits and the perfect kit to make your brew truly delicious.
Infused: Adventures in Tea – Henrietta Lovell
Henrietta Lovell is best known as ‘The Rare Tea Lady’. She is on a mission to revolutionise the way we drink tea by replacing industrially produced teabags with the highest quality tea leaves. Her quest has seen her travel to the Shire Highlands of Malawi, across the foothills of the Himalayas, and to hidden gardens in the Wuyi-Shan to source the world’s most extraordinary teas.
Infused invites us to discover these remarkable places, introducing us to the individual growers and so household name chefs Lovell has met along the way – and reveals the true pleasures of tea. The result is a delicious infusion of travel writing, memoir, recipes, and glorious photography, all written with Lovell’s unique charm and wit.
The Life of Tea: A Journey to the World’s Finest Teas – Michael Freeman
-Winner of Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards Drink Book Award 2019
-Shortlisted for the André Simon Drinks Book of the Year Award
‘Masterfully written, beautifully photographed’
This journey to the world’s finest teas, captured in extraordinary photography, brings alive the aroma, taste and texture of this drink in all its many nuances, and so will give connoisseurs and casual readers alike a much deeper understanding of how great tea is created.
Includes sections on botany, cultivation, processing methods and the impact tea has had, and so continues to have, on culture. The Life of Tea also follows Michael and Timothy’s travels in China, Japan, India and so Sri Lanka, featuring the producers of some of the world’s finest teas and the characteristics that make these teas so sought after.
This book is the ultimate guide for tea enthusiasts, following the journey from plantation to pot. One of the best books about tea.
If you enjoy this list of books about tea, you may also like my list of Novels About Scents and Perfume. And tell me, are you a tea lover? If so, do you have a favourite tea?