The Tea Drinker’s Handbook, A Review

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The Tea Drinker's Handbook

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook

By Francois-Xavier Delmas, Mathias Minet, and Christine Barbaste
Published by
Abbeville Press

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: Think reading about tea sounds kind of, well, bland?

Think again.

The Tea Drinker’s Handbookis an insightful, educational, and thoroughly delightful read.

I liked it so much, in fact, that it’s earned a place of honor in my library. I keep it on the same shelf as my grandmother’s original Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook from 1950 and the few other books that I refer to most often.

Granted, I’m an avid tea drinker—and have an admitted soft spot for books about food that take a deep dive into a single subject.

This book is one part history lesson, one part art book, and one part practical reference guide. It’s the kind of thing you’ll read for enjoyment, then flip through for inspiration or clarification before you hit the market to pick up some tea.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous photography. (With pictures on every page, this book is ridiculously easy on the eyes.)

The Tea Drinker's Handbook, page 26Tea plantation in Sri Lanka, from The Tea Drinker’s Handbook, by Francois-Xavier Delmas, Mathias Minet, and Christine Barbaste, and published by Abbeville Press

Maybe it’s all the tasty bits of information sprinkled through the pages.

There’s a definite art to writing nonfiction in a way that’s compelling and genuine. Authors Franvois-Xavier Delmas, Mathias Minet, and Christine Barbaste have clearly mastered it.

And there’s no doubt that these folks know their tea. They founded Le Palais des Thes, a chain of international tea shops, and have traveled the world for more than 20 years seeking out rare teas.

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: So what’s inside?

The book takes a really deliberate and methodical route through the winding history, ecology, and mythology of tea.

That said, it’s really easy to read—a surprising and huge plus for a book as packed with facts as this one. The pages are broken up with pictures and call-outs with tips, instructions, and other interesting tidbits.

Page from The Tea Drinker's Handbook

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: The front of the book

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook opens with a discussion of tea as a plant. The authors explain where it came from, and how it’s cultivated and harvested, down to the different colors of tea.

(If you’re ever offered a cup of yellow tea, take it as a compliment. Yellow tea is really green or white tea that’s of such exceptional quality that it’s fit to grace an emperor’s teacup.)

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: The middle of the book

The center section is thick and devoted to how to properly brew tea. Most importantly, it gets into how tea tastes—and why (physiologically) it tastes the way it does.

Photo spread from The Tea Taster's Handbook

The authors start with a brief—but very understandable—chemical description of just what happens when tea meets water. They get into brewing time, water quality and temperature, and how to conduct a proper tea tasting.

Pages from The Tea Drinker's Handbook

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: The back of the book

Now, the authors may have had me at the beginning (roundabout their description of wild and ancient tea trees), but this last section is the reason I’ll keep reaching for this book.

Entitled “The world’s 50 best teas,” the back of the book is a very user friendly reference guide to tea.

It runs through a little bit about tea’s history in China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka—and then provides in-depth information on 50 different kinds of teas. Each tea gets a page.

The world's 50 best teas, from The Tea Taster's Handbook

All the info I can imagine I’ll ever want on a single type of tea is right here—from alternate names and spellings, to the type of tea and when it’s harvested, to what it tastes like and how to prepare it.

The last few pages include a Tasting Table, which is a chart of brewing times and methods for each tea, for when you just want to look something up quickly.

Tasting Table from The Tea Drinker's Handbook

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: The Hungry Mouse’s verdict

Honestly, this is an all-around fabulous book. If you’re interested in tea, definitely go have a nibble on this one. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook: Where to get a copy

Order your copy straight from the good folks at Abbeville Press.

The Tea Drinker’s Handbook
By Francois-Xavier Delmas, Mathias Minet, and Christine Barbaste

ISBN: 978-0-7892-0988-7
240 pages, 200 full color illustrations
cloth binding


Martha Stewart for

Stonewall Kitchen, LLC

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.