For the first time in a popular history of tea, the Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, and Mongolian annals have been thoroughly consulted and carefully sifted. The resulting narrative takes the reader from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the splendor of the Tang and Song Dynasties, from the tea ceremony politics of medieval Japan to the fabled tea and horse trade of Central Asia and the arrival of the first European vessels in Far Eastern waters.
Through the centuries, tea has inspired artists, enhanced religious experience, played a pivotal role in the emergence of world trade, and triggered cataclysmic events that altered the course of humankind. How did green tea become the national beverage of Morocco? And who was the beautiful Emma Hart, immortalized by George Romney in his painting The Tea-maker of Edgware Road? No other drink has touched the daily lives of so many people in so many different ways.
The True History of Tea brings these disparate aspects together in an entertaining tale that combines solid scholarship with an eye for the quirky, offbeat paths that tea has strayed upon during its long voyage. It celebrates the common heritage of a beverage we have all come to love, and plays a crucial part in the work of dismantling that obsolete dictum: East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
Erling Hoh has been a correspondent for Archaeology and written on Chinese history and culture for Natural History and others.
Victor H. Mair
Victor H. Mair is Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of many books including The True History of Tea and The Tarim Mummies.