Read A Time For Tea: Travels Through China and India in Search of Tea by Jason Goodwin Free Online
Book Title: A Time For Tea: Travels Through China and India in Search of Tea|
The author of the book: Jason Goodwin
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2335 times
Reader ratings: 7.9
Date of issue: August 27th 1991
ISBN 13: 9780394579412
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 746 KB
Read full description of the books:
ah well, I wrote it... But in fact I'm as proud of it now (having carefully scanned and proofed the text for the new ebook version) as I was when it first came out.
The New York Times review, by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt:
Was it that in his boyhood dreams of glory he imagined himself to be one Captain Hawkeye (until spectacles were prescribed), who “owed a lot to a cherished line of English traders and pirates”? Or was it simply because among his two grandmothers’ cluttered possessions he had found Chinese tea caddies from their British imperial pasts?
Whatever the cause, readers are fortunate. For a young English travel writer named Jason Goodwin has been inspired by something in his past to devote his funny, evocative first book to the history and geography of tea. After all, tea is a fluid that one might take for granted these days, but a Zen myth holds it to have originated when a monk frustrated by his sleepiness tore off his eyebrows and cast them on the ground, whereupon the first tea bushes sprang up to provide him with a stimulant. And a 19th-century writer in the Edinburgh Review compared tea to nothing less than the truth: “suspected at first, though very palatable to those who had courage to taste it.”
In fact one takes tea so for granted that instantly upon thinking about it one encounters one’s ignorance: In what sort of soil does it grow? How is it processed for market? Is there a system for grading it? Why can’t one grow it in the garden?
But Mr. Goodwin, a charming tease, withholds instant gratification. Instant of cutting straight to the cha (as tea is called in Chinese), he first exercises his skill at evoking a sense of place. “In Hong Kong the inanimate do business along with the quick. Each ramp on a concrete flight of steps proclaims the merit of a product; dustbins call your attention to the Hong Kong Bank; an enormous Marlboro cowboy hangs tough on the flank of a high-rise — as you come close, he shyly disintegrates into a swirl of meaningless squiggles but recomposes himself, as moody as ever, as you walk away.”
Or he deftly dissolves the present into the past, for instance by riding the Hong Kong-Canton hydrofoil and then imagining what it must have been like for ships of the East India Company to travel in and out of the Pearl River estuary at the height of the tea trade 200 years ago.
Or he sums up Chinese history in a few brush strokes: “China’s concern through millennia has been to keep floods and barbarians controlled. The Great Wall of China was like a dam to hold back people.”
But one wants him to get on with it. How many kinds of tea are there? What is the difference between the best and the worst?
All in good time, gentle reader. As Professor Zhuang, chairman of the Fujian Tea Society, explained to the author when asked about classifying teas: “There is a system. It makes about 8,000 distinctions. Perhaps there are more exceptions to the system than distinctions within it. I have 73 years in tea, but I do not know the system. . . . In the West you use an alphabet. In China we learn characters. It is the same with tea.”
By and by one gets the point. Mr. Goodwin is not going to explain tea. It is far too complex a subject to systematize. When the Japanese seized Taiwan in 1895 and rationalized the business of buying tea, they came up with the following grades: “Standard, Fully Standard, Standard to Good, On Good, Good Leaf, Good, Fully Good, Good Up, Good to Superior, Fully Superior, Superior Up, Superior to Fine, On Fine, Fine, Fine Up, Fine to Finest, Finest to Choice, Choice, Strict Superior, Choicest and Fancy.” One could get confused.
What Mr. Goodwin has in mind is to reveal the process of growing, preparing and marketing tea in its natural setting. So we visit auctions and tea gardens, learn about the agony of the leaves and the twist, witness the process of fermentation and drying.
And then comes the climactic moment when Armajeet Sing, a Darjeeling broker, bends over the tasting table of a tea-garden manager named Navim. “Armajeet’s nose descended on the volcano. It was a historic nose, a Persian nose, passed down from Zoroastrian priests to hawking desert lords, from hawkers to warriors and from warriors to the invaders who rode into the desert of Rajasthan. It was quite large but straight and slim; the skin was fine and very pale over a slender bridge, with nostrils that might have been turned in Cremona. It flared over the volcano, burrowed in and re-emerged with a scattering of wet tea-leaves adhering to its tip, which trembled slightly over the verdict. The small mustache was a discreet cushion for the instrument.
“Armajeet straightened up. Navim stooped anxiously.
” ‘Very useful,’ said the Nose. For a brief moment I thought I saw Navim actually smile.”
Mr. Goodwin ends on an offbeat note. He describes the sad fate of the clipper ship Cutty Sark, which was built in 1869 for speed but arrived on the scene just as the age of steam began and was “petrified by history.” Like Mr. Goodwin’s fantasy Captain Hawkeye, the Cutty Sark came too late to trade tea.
But if ship and swashbuckler are ossified, Mr. Goodwin’s imagination stays vibrant. It has summoned up all the tea in China and India. And made one thirst for a spicy cup of the brew.
end of review
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Read information about the authorJason Goodwin's latest book is YASHIM COOKS ISTANBUL: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen.
He studied Byzantine history at Cambridge University - and returned to an old obsession to write The Gunpowder Gardens or, A Time For Tea: Travels in China and India in Search of Tea, which was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Award. When the Berlin Wall fell, he walked from Poland to Istanbul to encounter the new European neighbours. His account of the journey, On Foot to the Golden Horn, won the John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize in 1993.
Fascinated by what he had learned of Istanbul's perpetual influence in the region, he wrote Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, a New York Times Notable Book. 'If you want to learn,' he says, 'write a book.' Lords of the Horizons was described by Time Out as 'perhaps the most readable history ever written on anything.'
Having always wanted to write fiction, he became popular as the author of the mystery series beginning with The Janissary Tree, which won the coveted Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2007. Translated into more than 40 languages, the series continues with The Snake Stone, The Bellini Card, An Evil Eye and The Baklava Club. They feature a Turkish detective, Yashim, who lives in 19th century Istanbul.
YASHIM COOKS ISTANBUL is an illustrated collection of recipes, inspired by the cookery in his five published adventures.