27-year-old William H. Ukers worked as an editor for The Spice Mill, the in-house magazine of the Jabez Burns coffee company. Taking note of a growing trend, he suggested to his boss that the magazine expand to become a trade journal. His boss dismissed the idea, Ukers summarily quit. After quitting the coffee company William Ukers became the founding editor of the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. He spent a lifetime studying the fascinating history of tea — its origins, manufacture and influence, and the spread of its popularity to every part of the world. He had an encyclopedic mind and, before there was an internet, he amassed a treasure trove of tea illustrations and stories gleaned from libraries and colleagues around the world.
The classic book The Romance of Tea – a condensed version of all the research he had conducted about tea. It was published in 1936 by Alfred Knopf. He goes into detail, giving dates and names for just about every tea history topic that you could think of. In it he describes the legendary and true origins of tea, the spread of its use as a beverage, the romantic trade that grew up around it, its introduction to Europe and the changes it brought in European social and economic life. The spread of tea across the globe and its effect on politics and international trade is a truly fascinating story. It is said to be required reading for every tea professional and anyone who is fascinated by the world of tea.
A book reborn…
The idea for a new edition was born during a conversation between James Norwood Pratt, Mike Harney (Harney & Sons) and Devan Shah (International Tea Importers). All three thought the out-of-print book should be refreshed and made available again. The two tea purveyors pledged to fund the endeavor and Pratt volunteered to annotate the new publication and add an up-to-date timeline of tea history. Unfortunately, Shah passed away before the project got underway. But the project continued as Harney & Sons and ITI asked Pratt to edit, design and publish the 2017 second edition. He was happy to help this treasure book of tea find an enthusiastic new audience with the help of his longtime friends. This updated edition is dedicated to the memory of John Harney and Devan Shah, two American pioneers who helped lead tea’s recent renaissance.
America’s tea sage James Norwood Pratt introduced another generation of teaists to this legendary tea pioneer with a new annotated and expanded edition of Ukers’ book, for anyone whose daily life is infused with the ritual of tea.
“William Ukers’ tale of how humanity acquired its favorite habit first attracts us, then absorbs us and casts a spell over us and teaches us,” said Pratt. “He regales us, in his quaint way and measured tones, with a little known epic romance — how the whole world learned to love drinking tea.”