The problem with a lot of books about tea is that they are written by people who kind of miss the point of tea. They obsess about minor differences and miss the really important things, like whether or not a monkey picked your tea leaves.
Case in point is “The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook,” written by Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss. I got this book out of the library hoping to learn about tea but — you wouldn’t have guessed it — it’s more than a little dull. Here’s a sample:
Aged teas are prized for the increased energy (cha-qi) that they possess, and for their ability to connect with and increase the level of internal bodily energy (qi) in those sipping these teas. This marriage of cha-qi and qi generates strong feelings of contentment and peacefulness within the tea drinker and is an anticipated and esteemed trait that is especially powerful and prevalent in aged teas.
Compare the amount of verbiage given to qi to the amount given to the entry for tieguanyin, described exactly once as “wild-grown anxi or ‘monkey-picked'” tea. If my tea was picked by a monkey I’d damn sure want to know about it. But nowhere does the book ever explain the whole monkey thing. I had to look to a Web site called Weird Asia News to find an explanation of monkey picked tea. It’s still less than satisfying, citing a ten-century old legend and containing a video in which no monkeys pick tea. But at least it’s a start in the woefully under-researched field of tea and monkey activities.