Tea at Fortnum & Mason (TAFM) is a beautiful little pocket book which, in only 128 pages, captures the style and essence of the celebrated store in London's Picadilly: Among other things, the book's cover and design come complete with the classic pale green-blue and gold colour scheme of the actual store). If you are never able to visit this iconic luxury store, reading their book may well be the next best thing!
TAFM starts by providing a brief but concise overview of the history of tea - from the many myths and legends of China which surround the early origins of the beverage, to the cultural significance of Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies, to tea's early associations with Fortnum & Mason nearly three hundred years ago, to how it became the UK's 'beverage of choice', a passion and tradition which continue to this day.
We also are given an insight into the infamous Boston Tea Party of 1773 (which saw many Americans turn to coffee in protest), and the advent of the Clipper tea ships which greatly reduced the amount of time it took to transport tea and cargo from China to London. (NB: prior to the tea clippers, it could take more than a year).
But Tea at Fortnum & Masonis more than a history book. It's a perfect blend of tea history, recipes, tea etiquette and education. We are given an insight into the expertise behind the grading of tea leaves (grading indicates the size of the leaf, not the quality), and the more than 45 elegant recipes including Macadamia & White Chocolate Brownies, Citrus Sponge Cake, Smoked Salmon Sandwiches, and Honey & Lavender Loaf Cake are a sumptuous tribute to the time-honoured Afternoon Tea tradition served at the store's St. James's Restaurant.
Avid tea drinkers (like myself) will also appreciate the sections on Matching Teas & Cakes, Creating The Perfect Brew, and the charts outlining the grades and characteristics of various tea leaves.
And lovers of vintage will adore the old photos of the Fortnum & Mason storefront throughout the ages, as well as the vintage tea flyers and adverts to be found throughout the book.
As stated in the book's introduction, "The world of tea and Fortnum & Mason have been intertwined for over three centuries." This short compendium will teach you exactly how and why, and will also allow you to indulge in the tea-time tradition in the comfort of your home.