An Illustrated Field Guide to the Art, Science, and Joy of Tea
An Illustrated Field Guide to the Art, Science, and Joy of Tea From leaf to cup, by way of the history of human civilization. By Maria Popova
“The first sip is joy, the second is gladness, the third is serenity, the fourth is madness, the fifth is ecstasy,” Jack Kerouac wrote of tea in his 1958 novel The Dharma Bums . Late one night that year, he walked five miles with an enormous tape recorder strapped to his back to keep the woman he loved from taking her own life .
Lois Beckwith didn’t die that night. She and Jack soon parted ways as lovers, but remained friends. Eventually, he introduced her to the man who would become her husband. Their son would go on to devote his life to tea.
In Pursuit of Tea founder Sebastian Beckwith fell in love with tea while working as a trekking guide in Bhutan and northern India in the 1980s, and has spent the years since procuring and advocating for the planet’s finest, most sustainably grown and ethically harvested teas. Traveling to and working with small farms in Asia’s most historic tea-growing regions, he sources teas that grace the menus of some of New York City’s finest restaurants and have powered much of my own writing over the years. In his workshops, seminars, and lectures, he has brought the art-science of tea to the American Museum of Natural History, the French Culinary Institute, and Columbia University.
Now, Beckwith harvests the wisdom of his life’s work in A Little Tea Book: All the Essentials from Leaf to Cup ( public library ) — part practical field guide to choosing, preparing, and enjoying tea, part love letter, co-written with his childhood friend, former firefighter, and Gutsy Girl author Caroline Paul , and splendidly illustrated by Caroline’s wife and my dear friend Wendy MacNaughton .
Radiating from the pages are deep knowledge, good-natured humor, and a largehearted love of tea — the plant, the experience, the ecosystem of botany and labor and ritual, which George Orwell considered “one of the main stays of civilization.” What emerges is an encyclopedia of fact and joy, delving into the cultural and political histories of tea alongside its practical science and daily delights, bridging the sensorial and the spiritual dimensions of this ancient tradition turned modern staple.
Punctuating the book are various curiosities from the history of tea, emanating broader insight into human culture, the nature of creativity, and the serendipitous, often haphazard ways in which new ideas take root. Take, for instance, the story of the tea bag:
Tea bags were invented in the late 1800s but became wildly popular only after a New York tea purveyor named Thomas Sullivan sent samples of tea in silk bags. These were intended to be opened, the tea emptied out and then brewed, but customers instead dropped the bags straight into the water — and then complained that the material did not allow for the tea to steep. Sullivan turned to a more porous cloth and the tea bag was quickly embraced in America (though most of Britain turned up its nose, using loose tea until the mid-1970s.)
There are also invaluable antidotes to various oft-repeated myths, misconceptions, and half-truths — from the elemental fact that the six basic types of tea (white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and dark) all come from a single plant, Camellia sinensis , to the complex matter of caffeine. Beckwith and Paul offer a scientific corrective:
Many of us drink tea to wake up at the beginning of our day. You may even have heard that Camellia sinensis contains more caffeine than coffee beans. This is true, but misleading. We use much less tea than coffee by weight for a serving, so your cup of tea actually has at most one half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The relative level varies depending on the leaf used (the buds have higher concentrations), the cultivar, the leaf shape (a larger leaf results in a slower infusion because there is less surface area than, say, a fanning tea grade in your cup), and the brew time and technique (since caffeine is water-soluble, the longer tea steeps, the more caffeine is extracted; powdered tea like matcha has more caffeine because the leaves are consumed, not infused). It is important to note that caffeine does not correspond with tea type, so one cannot categorically say that black tea has more than green, or yellow tea has more than white.
Tea also contains the unique calming and relaxing — but not sedative — amino acid theanine, which has been found only in Camellia sinensis and one mushroom, Boletus badius . Theanine has been shown to improve mood and increase focus when combined with caffeine. This may be why tea drinkers often avoid the anxiety and jitters of those who imbibe coffee (known to some of us tea lovers as “devil juice.”)
Complement the lovely Little Tea Book with Orwell’s eleven golden rules for making the perfect cup of tea and the MacNaughton-illustrated field guide to wine , then revisit the touching, improbable story of how Kerouac saved Beckwith’s mother’s life . donating = loving
Each week of the past eleven years, I have poured tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into Brain Pickings , which remains free (and ad-free) and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider supporting my labor of love by becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation, between a cup of tea and a Brooklyn lunch. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU. Monthly donation
Harry and Meghan visit drought-stricken area of New South Wales on Australia tour – CNN
(CNN) Harry and Meghan’s royal tour of Australia took in a visit to a struggling, drought-stricken farming area of New South Wales Wednesday, after stopping by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) — a lifeline for many in the vast, rural areas the state — to unveil a new aircraft.
The UK’s Prince Harry and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, landed in the town of Dubbo, an hour’s flight northwest of Sydney, to a warm welcome, chatting with local schoolchildren as they arrived. Meghan is greeted by schoolchildren following her arrival in Dubbo. The welcome included one young fan, Luke Vincent, who broke the ropeline to embrace the prince, playfully playing with his beard. He then handed a bouquet of flowers to the Duchess before hugging her as well. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gets a hug and a bouquet of flowers from 5-year-old Luke Vincent. The royal couple were treated to a demonstration of the RFDS’ capabilities and mission, meeting members of the long-running service before participating in a ceremony to inaugurate the new aircraft. The RFDS, the world’s first flying doctors service, has provided critical healthcare to remote, rural Australian communities for 90 years. The Royal couple inaugurate a new aircraft for Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) at Dubbo Regional Airport. Read More Farm visit The young couple, who announced the Duchess’ first pregnancy as they arrived in Australia, then traveled to a farm owned by the Woodley family, which has been suffering from the effects of a long-running drought in the region. Accompanied by the family, the Royals took a tour through the property, helping feed livestock. The Woodleys showed their appreciation for the royal’s interest in their trying situation. “It was an honor and a privilege to have them look around our property and they were very interested in everything that has been going on in the last two years and how we have been coping with it,” one family member said. Prince Harry and wife Meghan chat with farmers Scott Woodley, his daughter Laura and wife Elaine during a visit to their drought-affected farm in Dubbo. The royal couple also visited a school which is focused on improving education of indigenous Australians, and attended a community event in Dubbo, where Harry praised the area’s farmers for their endurance in the face of the hardship of the drought. The royal couple watch aboriginal dances at Victoria Park in Dubbo. “You are the salt of the earth. Honest, hard working and as tough as they come, and that resilience, sense of humor and commitment to the land are the qualities that make you unique. You are the backbone of this country,” Harry told the small crowd as Meghan held an umbrella over him — a rare outbreak of rain in a region that has suffered for multiple seasons. Prince Harry speaks as a rare, welcome outbreak of rain falls in Dubbo, in rural New South Wales. “You have just lived through two years of drought and despite recent welcome rain, it is going to take a lot more and a long time to recover. It must be hard not to lose hope when you endure so many dry months, end on end, knowing that you are powerless to do anything about it.” The state’s Department of Primary Industries has reported that 98% of NSW is declared in drought — slightly improving on August’s 100% figure, Australia’s ABC reports . Importance of mental health care Harry also encouraged those suffering due to the dry weather to seek help “when you need it,” referencing his struggles with mental health issues in the wake of his mother, Princess Diana’s accidental death in 1997. “But you need to know that part of being strong and tough is having the courage to ask for help when you need it. You must not silently suffer. “You are all in this together, and if I may speak personally, we are all in this together, because asking for help was one of the best decisions I ever made. You will be continually amazed how life changes for the better.” Harry and Meghan will head to Melbourne tomorrow for the next leg of their tour, which will also take in New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.
Rain Falls on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Tour Moments After Visiting Drought-Stricken Farm
Rain Falls on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Tour Moments After Visiting Drought-Stricken Farm Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock and Robyn Merrett October 17, 2018 12:09 AM
After touching down in Dubbo, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Victoria Park for a picnic to celebrate the community spirit within the region.
However, they weren’t the only well-received guests. After struggling with drought for the past several years, Dubbo experienced heavy rainfall as Harry, 33, took the stage to deliver a speech.
The unexpected showers proved to be quite a surprise for the Dubbo community and Harry and Meghan.
The prince did his best to keep his pregnant wife dry and could be seen sweetly sheltering the former Suits actress, 37, under an umbrella. But his other duty called, so Harry gave the umbrella to Meghan so she could stay dry as he took the stage. Press Association via AP Images
Showing they are the perfect team, the pregnant royal then walked on stage and insisted on returning the favor, sheltering him as he spoke to the crowd. While Dubbo’s Mayor Ben Shields offered the prince his umbrella, Harry said, “It’s all right, I’ve got my wife.”
“Our region has been hit by a terrible drought so we are very pleased that you can bring that terrible English weather here with you,” the mayor joked before welcoming Harry.
Harry began his speech by praising the people of Australia and the country town saying, “you are the salt of the earth, honest, hardworking and as tough as they come and that resilience, sense of humor and commitment to the land are the qualities that make you unique.” Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Tim Rooke/Shutterstock
“You are the backbone of this country,” Harry continued. “The rich traditions of the Australian outback are legendary. You have a lot to be proud of. But I know that life has not been easy.”
Like Mayor Shields, Harry also joked about the rain saying it was a “gift,” but shifted the conversation to a more serious note by pointing out that weather was not enough to end the region’s long drought.
Harry, who has been open about his own struggles with mental health, also addressed another very serious impact of the drought — an increase in suicide among young male in rural areas. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Tim Rooke/Shutterstock
“You have just lived through two years of drought and despite the recent welcome rain it is going to take a lot more and a long time to recover,” Harry continued.
“It must be hard not to lose hope when you endure so many dry months end on end knowing that you are powerless to do anything about it.”
“We know that suicide rates in rural and remote areas are greater than in urban populations and this may especially be true among young men in remote regions,” he continued.
‘But outside all of that, here’s what I also know. You are one huge community and with that comes an unparalleled level of internal support and understanding.”
The prince told the crowd it is critical they ask for that help. Prince Harry was shown how to throw a bomerrang Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock
“You need to know a part of being strong and tough is having the courage to ask for help when you need it. You must not silently suffer.”
“But you need to know, part of being strong and tough is having the courage to ask for help when you need it. You must not silently suffer.”
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Speaking on his own journey Harry added, “You are all in this together and, if I may say, personally, we are all in this together. Because asking for help was one of the best decisions that I ever made. You will be continually amazed at how life changes for the better.”
Harry previously revealed he sought counseling for years after his mother Princess Diana’s death . During an interview with The Telegraph , Harry admitted he recently addressed his grief when he was 28 after struggling with anxiety and the feeling of wanting to punch someone.
The monumental rainfall came shortly after Harry and Meghan met with a local family who is fourth generation cattle and sheep farmers to hear their experiences with drought. The family members are working to find ways to deal with the changing environmental condition, which has impacted the majority of New South Wales, according to 9 News. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Chris Jackson – Pool/Getty
While learning from farmers Scott and Elaine Woodley and their 23-year-old daughter Laura, Meghan and Harry also got a chance to feed cattle, which consisted of dumping a mixture of grains onto piles of hay.
Despite being about 12 weeks pregnant, Meghan was just as hands-on as Harry and was seen rolling up her sleeves when feeding the animals.
However, just a few moments later Meghan and Harry were led to a sitting area where the former Suits actress was given a glass of water to cool down.
Of course, this isn’t Prince Harry ‘s first time around cattle. In 2003, Harry took a gap year and worked as a jackaroo at Tooloombilla Station in outback Central Queensland after graduating from Eton. Can’t get enough of PEOPLE’s Royals coverage? Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more! Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Chris Jackson – Pool/Getty
Harry and Meghan’s first major stop on their 16-day tour down under after a welcoming reception was the Taronga Zoo in Sydney , where they met with conservation scientists who are working on efforts to reduce illegal wildlife trafficking.
Harry thanked Australia for the” incredibly warm welcome” they’d received and the “chance to meet Aussies from all walks of life” during a reception later that day .
“We also genuinely couldn’t think of a better place to announce the upcoming baby,” he continued, “whether it’s a boy or a girl.”
Their tour is meant to “focus on youth leadership, and projects being undertaken by young people to address the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the region,” the palace said in a statement. Harry “is particularly keen to highlight these youth-led initiatives in his new role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, and to shine a light on the work and aspirations of young people across the Commonwealth.” You May Like