Tea Sommelier is an aesthetic meditation on tea, its history, tea culture and customs, some harnessing a ritual character, while others are purely practical. The book is well organised by the types and the origin of each tea, accompanied by a snippet from history, a brief introduction to professional tea tasting and the quality assessment, and concludes with some palate teasing recipes by the chef Giovanni Ruggieri. You will also learn how to properly use the smartly shaped gaiwan, the kyusu tea pot and how to understand the Chinese gong fu cha tea ceremony.
As a beautiful, concept table book, the snow white Tea Sommelier is gently theoretical, but provides just the right amount of information about the chosen representative tea in its commonly known category. The book’s decorative value destines the tea Sommelier for an occasional rejuvenating browsing. Clean and focused imagery of the photographer Fabio Petroni visually nourishes and inspires to finding and buying some aesthetically pleasing tea ceramics, caddies, and wood carved trays to enjoy fully any good quality tea at home.
The Tea Sommelier book includes a brief botanical specifics of the tea plant, the chemistry of its making and the beverage preparation, as well as tea’s potential health benefits. A correct preparation for each tea (Western and Eastern methods are both included when they apply), recommended food pairings, sensory tasting notes and a brief story, they all accompany each page dedicated to one specimen of tea. A poignant photo of the leafs as well as of the brewed beverage give a good idea of how it should visually look.
For anyone appreciating tea and wanting a better guidance to navigate the ocean of tea found today around the world this is the right publication. There are over 3000 varieties of tea today, each different from each other mainly because of the locally specific method of processing, but also the altitude and climate of where it is grown. Chinese tea is not just the oldest but also the most diverse tea, therefore the author dedicates a significant space to the likes of Long Jing, Tie Guan Yin, Pu’er and other brick teas.
Gabriella Lombardi is a well travelled Italian author and the owner of the first tea store with a tea room in Milan – the Chà Tea Atelier. In the book her extensive knowledge about tea is accumulated and shared. If you ever wondered what is fermented tea or why the correct preparation yields no bitter but more nuanced flavours, then dive in and learn step by step with each tea you sip on. Lombardi explains her infatuation with tea, writing: “Tea takes you on a voyage of discovery of the rites and cultures of distant lands.”
Her focus is on the terroir-driven, pure teas, and she only briefly touches on the scented, flavoured and blooming teas. Nevertheless, the last are “regarded as meditation teas – a real delight for the eye as much as for the palate.”
To extend the pleasure from drinking tea, there are some 20 haute cuisine recipes. These include some rather expensive ingredients such as edible flower petals, but you can leave them out as they are more about the presentation than integral to the resulting taste of the plate. Doesn’t a Sencha and radish sprout risotto, Wulong Dong Ding Lamb with jerusalem artichoke cream or Matcha Tiramisu all sound tempting? With these delicious dishes general tea pairings are suggested, but you have plenty of room for creativity.