The Life of Tea

By Michael Freeman and Timothy d'Offay

Later, pouring some of last year’s temple tea, he says, “Tea has so much information to give. If you pay attention, you know not only the place, but how the tree grew, even the mood of the person who processed it.” – The Life of Tea by Michael Freeman and Timothy d’Offay (page 101)

Kyle Whittington reviews The Life of Tea, Journey to the World’s Finest Teas

The Life of Tea by Michael Freeman and Timothy d’Offay

Visual Splendor

By Kyle Whittington | Tea Book Club

This book, in a word, is stunning, just stunning. By far the most beautiful tea book visually to land on my tea shelf. The coffee table book format and fabulous photography by Michael Freeman make this a treasured addition to any collection of tea books. Add to that the knowledge that pours forth in the words written by Timothy d’Offay and we have a truly special book in our hands.

One of the lovely things about this book is that you don’t feel that you’re rereading information on tea that you’ve read 1,000 times before. Rather, you go on a journey to each tea type, each country, region, artisan or tea house, and along the way, dotted throughout the text like so many villages amongst the tea mountains are these wonderful gems and nuggets of information. There’s so much to learn and absorb both from the pictures and the text in this book. It sits such at an unusual sweet spot where a visually enticing book meets a well-researched and written reference book.

This is not a book that requires cover to cover reading. Rather, you can pick an area and go on a journey, then move on to another. In any order. An approach that Tea Book Club members really enjoyed. The text is so well written, with great flow, great knowledge and great humanity. From historical and cultural context to processing details of a specific tea and the atmospheric approach up a tea mountain road. You really feel that Tim has been there, knows the farmers, the people, and the tea.

The large format and visual splendour of this book is, however, perhaps its biggest sticking point, as well as what sets it so beautifully apart. It’s simply not easy to read and requires effort to open and get on with. One solution is to grab the Kindle copy for easy train or bed reading, allowing you to fly through the content laden and beautifully written text without the heft and size the physical book requires.

That being said, I simply love this book… but I’d also love to see a paperback size version falling into the hands of every tea lover out there. Because really, we all ought to read this book at least once.

The Life of Tea. Photo by Michael Freeman Photography.

And here is what some of the Tea Book Club members had to say:

“A great coffee table book, the text wrapped around photography bringing it to life.”  – Alison, UK

“I adore it. It’s definitely going to be a long term treasure for me.” – B, USA

“The artistic quality of the depiction is so beautiful and has such integrity. It’s connected things in my head.” – Terri, USA

“One of the strengths of this book is to show different views of what we see in every tea book” – Aimée, Canada

“This book gives you all the information like other tea books but in a very elegant way… plenty of little details, but very important ones.” – Pilar, UK

“The writing was really insightful and the photography was really beautiful.” – Karri, USA

“I really liked his focus on the people in all the different places he traveled to. His perspectives of the farmers was really really nice.” – Nicole, USA

“I’ve been drooling over the pictures. My husband is not a big tea drinker but he even picked it up and learned a lot just from the pictures.” – Terri, USA

“I love the text and I also love the pictures but I found ti difficult to read at night. But I found there was a lot of pieces of information that added a piece to the puzzle in my mind about tea… ‘Oh, that’s the link between those two ideas!'” – Aimée, Canada

“I loved the section on tea ware, his knowledge and love for the tea ware really shines through.” – Nadine, UK

“I really really like that it didn’t have the ad nauseam facts that are repeated in every other book on tea. There’s so much in there but it’s not done in a stereotypical way.” – Nicole, USA

“I really appreciated seeing pictures of some of the behind the scenes stuff that you don’t usually see in such good quality.” – Sean, USA

“The tea ware section is amazing, you feel like you are reading about art!” – Pilar UK

Although based in the UK, The Tea Book Club is an international group of tea lovers and readers who meet up virtually each month to discuss tea books. If you’d like to join us for next read, visit or @joinTeaBookClub on Instagram. 

Freeman’s photography depicts every aspect of tea.

The Life of Tea:
A Journey to the World’s Finest Teas

Goodreads: Documentary photographer Michael Freeman and tea expert Timothy d’Offay explore the terroir, taste, and culture of the world’s favorite drink.

Amazon | Hardcover, 256 pages

Published Sept. 4, 2018
Octopus Publishing Group
Imprint: Mitchell Beazley

Michael Freeman Gallery

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