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Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West    by Beatrice Hohenegger order for
Liquid Jade
by Beatrice Hohenegger
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Many years ago, when the late Johnny Carson was the reigning czar of late night television's The Tonight Show, the affable host and his longtime second-banana Ed McMahon performed an occasional routine with a simple premise: McMahon - if I recall correctly - would make reference to something and say that it contained 'Everything you could possibly want to know' about some subject; Carson would top him with some ostensibly humorous though insulting rejoinder, 'Wrong, you are buffalo breath!' And then Carson would proceed to entertain his audience by offering up a number of humorous tidbits based on whatever significant (or insignificant) premise McMahon had just introduced.

Well, with that having been said by way of circuitous introduction, we now have before us a book that would have been absolutely unusable in the well-received Carson-McMahon shtick: Liquid Jade. Its irrelevance for Carson and McMahon, and therefore its real strength and appeal, you see, lies in its exhaustive and entertaining thoroughness. Yes, 'Everything you could possibly want to know' about tea is, in fact, contained in this interesting, new book.

Frankly, I have to admit that I had no idea that there was so much to say about tea. In a book that the publisher calls 'the story of western greed and eastern bliss,' we can trace the entire history of one of the world's most ubiquitous beverages. Read Beatrice Hohenegger's anecdotal history of tea and learn - among many other things - about:

China's discovery of tea's invaluable health properties
The Taoist belief that tea was the elixir of immortality
The English introduction of opium to China in exchange for tea
The tea industry's connections in the 18th century with the practice of slavery
Buddhist Japan's spiritual connections to tea

Covering everything from the mythical birth of tea to the tea ceremony to the tea bag, and including everything in between by also focusing on tea's relationship to medicine, politics, culture, and religion, Liquid Jade is 'a lively exploration of the world's most consumed beverage - in all its historical and cultural aspects.' So, do yourself a favor and serve up a steaming cuppa for yourself, relax in a comfortable chair, and spend a few hours with this refreshing narrative history.

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