I first learned of Jennifer Sauer’s book subtitled: “Your Adventure Guide to San Francisco Tea Culture” days after returning from my own San Francisco walking-tea tour. I would have really enjoyed using this book as my guide instead! Ms. Sauer’s book adds to the needed portrayal of the best tea culture has to offer, especially in the United States. The Way to Tea is “…an invitation to America’s new tea culture, which is brewing at its aromatic best in the Bay Area.” (10). She accomplishes this primarily through her photography; and it is the breath-taking photos that make this book most appealing. As a writer, I also appreciated her introduction that included her “tea story” and the foreword by James Norwood Pratt who’s also from San Francisco.

Any tea party lover would appreciate this book whether they might have the opportunity to visit the venues reviewed or not. Spanning Chinese, Japanese, and British customs, the eighteen chosen offer a wide variety of all the forms “the tea party” can take. Tea parties, or the tea ceremony, are NOT just for retired ladies wearing red hats or Zen Buddhist monks, for that matter. (Obviously, as Poleng Lounge, a tea nightclub is included). Tea universally offers, “a gracious respite from banality and daily routine.” (13). And since Tea Party Girl focuses almost primarily on the European influence on tea culture, I especially appreciated Sauer’s description of Britain’s contribution. “English salons offer refinement, repose, and connection.”

After reading the book, I’m especially eager to visit Modern Tea and the Secret Garden Tea House. Modern Tea received a glowing report not just from Ms. Sauer, but Anne Evans of Teaching Tea, (Hi, Mom!) whose stamp of approval I highly revere. Modern Tea only serves “organic, fair-trade, seasonally rotating teas in a light-filled, airy and comfortable restaurant that feels like part summer-camp dining hall and part contemporary art museum.” (89). The photographs taken at the Secret Garden Tea House I find enchanting, especially now that I believe in fairies. “From the Royal Albert bone china to the gingham and rose fabric tablecloths and silver place settings, not a detail has been spared in the creation of a fantasy afternoon tea.” (81)

It’s still relatively rare to find a tea book that has beautiful photographs AND spans the different tea cultures. Normally, Tea Party Girl doesn’t recommend “coffee” table books, but I do recommend this one as such. I rotate this book with a few of my other favorite display books; books I hope my guests will pick up and thumb through. My other tea display books currently include:

Monday, I’ll be posting my Christmas presents recommendations for the tea lover and plan to include this book. Who in your life would enjoy a Tea Read this Christmas? Why not check it off your list right now?

A special thanks to Jennifer Leigh Sauer for providing me with a copy for this review!