Sunday, January 25, 2009

Review: Tea Bliss


I read this book for my 999 Challenge, as I have a tea category. Tea isn't just my favorite beverage, it's become a passion. I love trying new blends and harvests, expanding my tea palette. Thus, I'm excited to read more about tea. I began my tea reading with Theresa Cheung's Tea Bliss: Infuse Your Life with Health, Wisdom and Contentment. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Possibly the most important thing to state for potential readers of this book is that this is not a book about tea. Rather, it's a self-help book that's masquerading as a tea book. There's precious little information about tea in here, but more on that later. The basic premise of the book is that ideas and principles of tea can be used to affect positive change in your life. Each of these principles comprises a chapter (or "nourishing blend" to use the author's lexicon) and is linked with a similar principle that one can apply to one's life. Some of them sort of work, for example, not all tea should be brewed with boiling water is paired with the idea that living in a constant state of stress is toxic. Other of the principles, however, seem to bear little resemblance to the tea principle in question. Make sure each cup you serve has the same taste and temperature doesn't seem to bear a strong resemblance to seeking balance in life. And that particular point leads to one of the larger issues in the book. There are a wealth of inaccuracies and misinformation concerning tea in these pages. In a number of cases the author states things that are wrong or unresearched. Making sure each cup of tea has the same flavor every time? Most frequent drinkers of green and white teas are well aware that these teas stand up to, and indeed are expected, to go through multiple steepings (particularly if brewing with a gaiwan), and the entire point of the multiple steepings is that the flavors change slightly with each. A number of other examples are found in the health benefits of tea chapter. The author refers to rooibos as "the only naturally caffeine-free black tea." Sorry, but no. Rooibos is an entirely different plant. It does not come from the Camiellia Sinesis plant; it is not black tea. Or what about "lemon tea," which the author describes as "mainly sugar with tea solids." Ummmmm, does she mean Nestea? Seriously? In a book about making and enjoying tea? She refers to it as energizing, in a chapter on tea and health no less. At this point I've started to wonder how much of the issue is bad writing, and how much is lack of knowledge. I suspect there's some of both. The author's bio indicates that she has written other self-help books, but there's not much I can praise on the self-help side either. Most of the suggestions are basic, standard, self-help filler (the challenges and disappointments give life texture, seek balance, etc. etc. etc.) In sum, the tea theme is never well-wedded to the self-help content of this book, making it seem contrived at best. The research, factual, and writing problems only add to the more fundamental problems. The one positive thing I can say about this book is that the pictures are beautiful, but beyond that, there is little to recommend here.

Theresa Cheung, Tea Bliss: Infuse Your Life with Health, Wisdom, and Contentment (Corgi, 2007) ISBN: 157324211X

Cross-posted to the 999 Challenge Blog

1 comment:

Gata said...

Hi, I commented on the 999 post, but I also wanted to mention here that I was a little confused with all the tea/life lesson metaphors. There were also a good deal of typos and odd sentence structures. It has some moments, though, and I'll finish it, though I almost feel like it doesn't quite fit in with the other tea/food books in my 999 category.