Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Green Tea User's Manual: A Tea Book Review

Today tasty cup of tea book is The Green Tea User's Manual by Helen Gustafson, noted Tea Sommelier from Chez Panisse Restaurant. I have never heard of this restaurant, but from what I can glean from the menu is it is very fancy, in Berkeley, and rather pricey, the food looks tasty though! This is a fairly short book all about Green Tea, and unlike some of the other books that claim to be all about Green Tea, this one actually sticks to theme. There are very few mentions of other types of tea, in fact there is very little mention of tea's history (except green) and the tea plant.

This book does some things very right, for one thing it calls the process of exposing tea to air oxidation instead of fermentation, even going as far to say that calling it fermentation is incorrect. It gives the correct temperatures to brew different kinds of green, stating that all teas are a little bit different and it takes experimenting to find the 'sugar spot' for the best cup. I enjoy the section explaining how to observe water and judge its temperature by looking at the bubbles. This method was invaluable to me before I got my temperature control kettle. It also just presents some good information about tea, which is always a plus in my book.

However, I am exceptionally picky when it comes to book, I tend to get very nit-picky, which is a little funny in comparison to my taste in tea. I might have a very discerning nose and palate, but it turns out I am not at all picky, which is awesome because I enjoy most the teas I try. I wish I were the same with books, it would make some of the time I spend on terrible novels a lot more enjoyable. And I am getting off on a tangent again...anyway, back on subject! The negative aspects of this book are pretty few, there are times when the wording seems a little cutesy bordering on demeaning (like saying in reference of Japanese teas: 'these chippy-choppy names skip across the pages like chubby kittens') now I always appreciate a little whimsy, but it seems so out of place with the tone of the book. The really big problem was in the 'health section' in reference to decaffeinating your tea by rinsing it. I want to go back in time, find out who started perpetrating this myth, and hit them with a sack of tea. It makes me angry, like few other things do, when I see this...I take it so personal because in my younger days I read this and believed it. At the time I was on medication that did not mix well with caffeine, let's just say the result made for a miserable experience.

This is really a great little beginners guide to Green Tea, I would go as far as to say this has been the best stand alone guide to Green Tea I have run into. There might be better ones out there, but I have not found one yet. It is one of those books that I feel is a 'seed planter' it acts as a good base for people with a passing interest, but if you gave this book to someone who developing an obsession with tea...it would plant so many research seeds in their brain that they would spend hours looking things up.

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