The Life of Tea: A Journey to the World’s Finest Teas by Michael Freeman & Timothy d’Offay


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I had been meaning to pick up The Life of Tea for a few years now but did not get around to it until it was last month’s selection for TeaBookClub. It is a collaboration between photographer Michael Freeman and Timothy d’Offay, the founder of Postcard Teas. The book was beautifully made in a larger coffee-table format packed with stunning full-spread photographs of tea places and people from all over the world. At 256 pages and just over 2lbs in weight, it was definitely more of an ‘at home’ tea read.

What Is It About?

I read A LOT of books on tea, and many of them just sort of repeat the same rote facts over and over again. This was not one of those books. There are a few requisite pages on processing but then we jump right into a journey around the world. The narrative writing style of this book was really refreshing. It was very apparent that the authors have a passion for tea and sharing the stories of the people who produce it. I really enjoyed the focus on the perspectives of the tea producers and artisans that are peppered throughout the book.

Wuyi Mountain, in the north of Fujian province, is one of tea’s classic heartlands, with a long history and ancient geology.

Michael Freeman & Timothy d’Offay, The Life of Tea

The Life of Tea is divided into three sections. ‘From Earth To Cup’ is a brief introduction to tea, terroir, processing, and preparation. There is enough for someone relatively new to tea, but the reader is not drowned in facts and figures. ‘Tea Mountains & Monasteries’ takes us on tea sourcing journies through China, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. ‘Tea Towns & Culture’ jumps around a bit from history to architecture and teaware.

Would I Recommend It?

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book and would definitely recommend it. There are nuggets of information tucked in its pages that help make connections in the reader’s mind. There isn’t much cohesiveness between the different sections, but that makes it easier to digest if you aren’t reading straight through from cover to cover. I did find myself missing a conclusion to sum up the entire experience. The book just sort of ends abruptly.

Right now the hardcover is even less expensive than the Kindle version so it a good time to scoop that up. Members of TeaBookClub who used the Kindle version said that it was very readable but that the images were quite small.

I had not realized it at first but this is actually the second tea-focused book that I have read that featured Michael Freeman’s photography. The first was Tea Horse Road: China’s Ancient Trade Road to Tibet by Michael Freeman and Selena Ahmed. It is another very big book that I highly recommending if you can find it.

Have you read The Life of Tea? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

The Life of Tea

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