Tea has always been associated with ritual and pleasure. This capacious, lushly illustrated--dare we say, coffee-table--book presents a vivid history of tea's cultivation, commerce, myth, and connoisseurship. Photos and text whisk us to the bountiful tea gardens of India, China, and Japan, where we learn about the entire process of planting, plucking, sorting, withering, fermenting, and drying. The colorful careers of tea barons--including the first Englishman to "solve the mystery of Chinese tea," Robert Fortune; tea industrialist James Taylor; and, of course, Thomas Twining and Tom Lipton--are recounted. Tea's culture, both in the East and in the West, is examined in detail, from the specifics of ceremonies to the shapes of teapots, samovars, cups, bowls, and glasses, and tea's traditionally beautiful packaging. Various favored settings for tea consumption in England, Holland, Russia, Morocco, Afghanistan, Egypt, Japan, China, and India are identified and compared, from alfresco gatherings to dining rooms of luxury trains, tea salons, tents, stalls, and palaces. The final chapter categorizes the flavors and properties of many different blends of tea and suggests optimum methods for brewing and serving. An elegant and informative volume rich in anecdote and art.