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The Little Book of Healthy Teas    by Erika Dillman order for
Little Book of Healthy Teas
by Erika Dillman
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What an informative little book! Tea drinking has been a lifelong tradition for me. I drank it as a child in Ireland, where it is part of the fabric of daily life and hospitality. I sampled it along the old caravanserai routes across Asia, as well as in China and Japan. I have been refreshed by sweet mint tea in Morocco, enjoyed fragrant chai through caramelized wafers in Iran, and loathed salt tea in Kashmir. I have even tried various herbal blends like Red Zinger popular in the 60's. I still found much that was new to me in The Little Book of Healthy Teas.

This guide introduces the tea bush and discusses its production around the world. It was interesting to see that Argentina ranked ninth in tea-producing countries, but I was not at all surprised to see Ireland at the top of tea-drinking nations. Types of tea, and their properties, are described at length. Have you heard of white tea, pu'erh or rooibos? Me neither but I am determined to taste all three types now. In addition to the traditional teas, the book covers herbal teas, studied in depth in Germany, where herbs from Angelica to Yarrow are regulated and prescribed as herbal medicines. There are instructions for storing and brewing tea, and a useful list of tea sources around the world and on the Internet.

You probably know that tea originated about five thousand years ago in China. It was valued there for its medicinal properties, which are of course being rediscovered now in the Western world. Research, according to this volume, is showing 'that tea contains powerful disease-fighting phytochemicals called polyphenols', which apparently may reduce risk of heart disease and cancer, 'when included in a healthy diet.' Health benefits, apparently strongest in green tea, are discussed in some detail. This does not surprise me in the least as I grew up in an environment in which tea was a cure-all for anything that ailed you, from stomach-ache to depression, as well as being an accompaniment to any kind of celebration.

If you are already a tea-lover, you'll learn a lot from this little book. If you're not, it will give you all kinds of good reasons, with health and relaxation high on the list, to try different forms of the beverage. For me, tea has always been a wonderful excuse to take a break and a breather from the marathon of modern life. The book captures this well in a quote from Chinese poet T'ien Yiheng - 'tea is drunk to forget the din of the world' - which reminds me; gotta go now, time for another cuppa!

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