By Alex Arthun, MLS
If you came here for juicy gossip, I’m letting you know now this is not that kind of post.
Other than perhaps a cardigan, a cup of hot tea is one of the most essential pieces of a librarian’s ensemble. And as we are strapping in for chilly weather, it seems like a perfect time to pay homage to the drink that keeps our hands warm and our eyes open.
First, let’s start off with some fun tea facts:
White, green, oolong, and black tea all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. White tea is taken from the unopened buds of the plant while the others are taken from the leaves. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves; oolong tea is made from semi-fermented leaves; and black tea is made from fully fermented leaves.
Herbal teas are called “tisanes.” Herbal teas are made from herbs, spices, and other plants that are not Camellia sinensis. Though not technically from the tea plant, it is brewed and steeped in the same fashion as tea. Herbal teas are also often naturally caffeine-free.
Tea has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Most records indicate that tea was originally used in China for healing purposes before it was consumed for pleasure. Modern-day studies have demonstrated tea – especially green tea – provides many benefits and nutrients for overall health.
After water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world. China consumes more tea than any other country overall. But Turkey, Ireland, and the UK all drink more tea per capita.
Tea is culturally diverse. From traditional Japanese tea ceremonies to British afternoon tea, there are tons of customs featuring tea. Where you’re drinking tea impacts when, how, with whom, and why you’re drinking tea.
Next, book recommendations! (Like a librarian wasn’t going to leave you with a book list…)
To learn more about the history of tea, I recommend checking out A History of Tea by Laura C. Martin and For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose. The first book starts with tea’s ancient origins in Asia and continues through to today’s fair-trade tea market, while also incorporating facts and recipes. The second book zooms in on a mid-19th century plot by the British East India Company to steal Chinese tea secrets, and reads like a true spy thriller.
For those interested in the health aspects of tea, I recommend The Book of Matcha by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby and Healing Herbal Teas by Sarah Farr for a variety of recipes to help soothe and strengthen your bodies and immune systems.
And for general tea and book lovers like me, I recommend A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh. Tea is as ubiquitous in literature as it is in the real world, and this fun cookbook is filled with recipes inspired by some of our favorite classics.
You can find even more book recommendations on growing, brewing, serving, and celebrating tea here.
Lastly, we at Ingram wish you all a happy Hot Tea Month! May your brew be as strong and as soothing as you need it.