I ordered this book at the same time as “Tea: A Nerd’s Eye View“, but due to it not being in stock the day all the right buttons were pressed I’ve only just recently got my paws on it.
This is going to be a shortish review, because, well, spoilers…
To be perfectly honest I’d never heard of Ms. Lovell or The Rare Tea Company before I bought this book. I’d seen neither a mention of her in a blog post, or any reference to her made in any on-line discussion I’d been following. My guess is that this was because the tea world is so vast, and you tend to concentrate on your own special areas of interest, and interact with retailers and other enthusiasts who dwell in those particular niches. That kind of meant that The Rare Tea Company and I were in separate orbits, so to speak.
Anyroad, all of a sudden several of the blogs that I follow were raving about this book, so trusting their judgement I considered it worth a punt.
I’m rather glad I did.
As I say above, I’m going to have to be a tad vague from this point on, simply because I don’t want to give too much away. I’d rather you find out about Henrietta’s adventures yourself.
Make no mistake – the usage of the word “adventures” both in this post and the title of the book is certainly justified. Ms. Lovell’s obsession with the leaf has taken her all over the globe, to anywhere and seemingly everywhere Camellia sinensis is grown, and brought her into contact with everyone from Hollywood celebs and famous chefs to the tea farmers of Wuyishan and London based tattoo artists.
First off, it has to be said that this is a superbly well written book. The words flow effortlessly off the page, like your favourite tea out of your favourite pot. I was constantly reminded of Anthony Bourdain’s brilliant “A Cook’s Tour” in terms of the general style and structure. Bourdain was, in my humble opinion, a damn fine writer, and I would not compare anyone to him unless I thought them worthy of it.
This book is quite the page-turner – I found myself drawn into the narrative, always wondering what new exciting experiences awaited our heroine in each chapter. I will have to issue a warning to anyone who intends to read this book in public – there are more than a few genuinely hilarious laugh out loud moments here. NB – snorting laughter and tea drinking do not a good combination make. A lot of the humour comes from the preconceptions of how an English lady from what might be considered a “posh” background ought to behave, and, well, you’ll see…
Even though I say above that I had never heard of Ms. Lovell previously, our tea paths had crossed, in the loosest possible sense.
As it turns out she often visits the Satemwa estate in Malawi, whose shou Pu-erh I posted about back in October 2018, and she’s also been involved with the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall, home to England’s only tea garden.
I’ve read some criticisms of the book in online reviews, with people calling it merely a protracted advertisement for The Rare Tea Company and its wares, something I personally don’t agree with. I see this book, as the author herself describes it, as a “…highly personal partisan account…” of someone who has built up something impressive that she can be justifiably proud of. Somewhat ironically, after reading this book I do now quite fancy the idea of ordering one of her teas that was mentioned therein – Malawi Antlers White Tea.
There is one statement Ms. Lovell makes early on that as far as this teahead is concerned puts her on the side of the righteous – on page 4 she states…”To be deprived of tea would be a terrible torture I could not endure.”
A sentiment most reading this blog would fully sympathise with, I’ll wager.
A good book, this. Heartily recommended.
Infused: Adventures In Tea, by Henrietta Lovell
Published by Faber & Faber