Tales of the Tea Trade
Review

Tales of the Tea Trade

By Michelle and Rob Comins


It was at this point that Mr. Toshiro gestured me to push my hand into the soil, which I did until I was past his elbow; the light, aerated soil offered little resistance. On removing my arm I was instructed to taste the soil, which I did without hesitation. How could something that was growing such healthy plants be anything but good for me? It tasted sweet, soft and gritty. If it hadn’t been gritty, I would probably have gone back for another handful.” (Page 23)

Tales of the Tea Trade Book Review

Review at a glance
Tales of the Tea Trade

Intensely Human and Heartfelt

It was at this point that Mr. Toshiro gestured me to push my hand into the soil, which I did until I was past his elbow; the light, aerated soil offered little resistance. On removing my arm I was instructed to taste the soil, which I did without hesitation. How could something that was growing such healthy plants be anything but good for me? It tasted sweet, soft and gritty. If it hadn’t been gritty, I would probably have gone back for another handful.” (Page 23)

That’s a quote from Tales of the Tea Trade by Michelle and Rob Comins.  Voted our favourite book of the year in October 2020 by Tea Book Club members. I’m Kyle Whittington from the UK and founder of Tea Book Club, we are an international group of tea lovers and readers who meet up online each month to discuss tea books. 

Tales of the tea trade was also shortlisted for the Andre Simmons Book Awards in 2020. 

Here are my thoughts:

After a general but thoughtfully written introduction to tea and its types (pages 6-55), Michelle and Rob take us on a journey to the different countries they source their tea from (pages 56-183). Taking turns to voice the stories, we hear from both Michelle and Rob, as well as the fascinating people they’ve met on their travels. This book is intensely human and heartfelt. You really feel a connection with Michelle and Rob, their love of tea, the places they go and the people they meet. 

The book is thoughtfully laid out so you know right away who is speaking and can easily pick out the stories from tea people alongside interesting asides such as baking their own oolong (page 38)  and people’s relationships with tea. Countries are arranged in chronological order based on when they started growing and producing tea, a different and thoughtful approach. The book is easy to hop in and out of, reading sections that interest you, if you’re not a cover-to-cover reader. Overall a pleasure to read and a must add to any tea bookshelf. 

Thoughts and comments from Tea Book Club members:

I truly enjoyed the whole book” (Nadine, UK)

I absolutely love the way they outlined the book, the flow and I love the bits at the end, such as the meditation (pages 187-189). A lovely way to finish it.” (Jin, USA)

“I think it’s wonderful, it’s almost like meeting those people. I want to drink all of these teas. They really showcase the people and the teas. It’s not about them telling, it’s about the people and the teas.” (Nadine, UK)

Definitely the storytelling, the personal connection. They put a face to the tea, they put people to the tea.” (Alison, UK)

Peoples attitudes and passions about where they came to tea from, why they were doing it.” (Laura, UK)

I really enjoyed the chapter on Korean tea (pages 100-113). I’ve never had Korean tea before, so it was really nice to immerse myself in that world.” (Jin, USA)

Harvest Schedule

“I like the table where you can see and compare the different harvest times depending on where they are and the different names of the picking seasons depending on where they are (page 30).” (Kristine, Sweden)

 “It was really nice for me reading about my friend in Nepal (pages 156-165). I didn’t read it from end to end, just hopped on and off reading different sections.” (Elke, Germany)

“I love in the Chinese chapter about the clay and the pot making (page 80) and how they’re using different types of clay for different types of tea. For me it’s new and I haven’t really tasted the differences between using different teas and different clay.” (Kristine, Sweden)

Some things that came out of the book:

It made people more appreciative of the farmers, the work they put in, and their care for the tea. 

Made them feel more mindful about the teas they buy. 

Another reader commented: “Something that really got my attention was on tea preparation. They wrote that to taste tea really well requires people to have a quiet and compassionate heart. A good reminder that tea requires one to be peaceful.” (Greta, Sweden)

You can purchase the Tales of the Tea Trade directly from cominstea.com or, of course, on Amazon

If you’d like to join us for next read, visit teabookclub.org or @joinTeaBookClub on Instagram. 

Kyle Whittington
Kyle Whittington

Comins Tea

Michelle and Rob Comins, as well as authoring this wonderful book, own and run Comins Tea, a direct-trade fine tea merchant, with teahouses in the city of Bath and the picturesque town of Sturminster Newton in Dorset, UK. Definitely well worth a visit if you’re in the area or visiting the UK. I had the most wonderful afternoon at their Bath teahouse with friends a couple of years ago tasting a range of delicious teas (I couldn’t resist leaving with several teas and some wonderful teaware of course). With lockdowns in the UK this last year they have been doing loads of great stuff online, so check out their tea school and programs on offer on their website [www.cominstea.com]. — Kyle Whittington

Michelle and Rob Comins
Michelle and Rob Comins

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1 comment on “Tales of the Tea Trade

  1. Terri Ellis Todd

    Very inspiring podcast. I have an unread copy on my shelf and hope to read it soon.

Comments are closed.