Friday, September 17, 2010

Helen Gustafson

I've been reading Helen Gustafson's Green Tea User's Manual and am reminded how much I enjoyed her other book, The Agony of the Leaves: The Ecstasy of My Life with Tea.

What makes these tea books appealing, in my opinion, is not so much the tea information (tho it's useful) - similar tea info is found in many other books.  Rather, it's that Helen's personality shines through. She tells stories about her evolution as the tea buyer for Chez Panisse, that famed Alice Waters restaurant.  She has anecdotes about her efforts to bring tea, well-made tea, into being amidst the challenges of fast-paced restaurant demands.  My favorite story is about how she negotiated to get fresh water added to the kettles so the tea wouldn't be flat. 

Helen died in 2003.  Read a NYT tribute here.  Her spirit and passion for tea live on through her books, and I'm sure at Chez Panisse.  I hope to make it there some day and have a cup in her honor. 


Snap said...

I have the Green Tea User's Manual and love it ... words and illustrations. The Agony of the Leaves: The Ecstasy of My Life with Tea is on my list and with your post, I'll put it nearer the top!!!!!!

Marilyn Miller said...

I have the Green Tea book, but not the other. I also was fascinated by her life and involvement in tea.

Teafan said...

Yes,I've read the first book, too. The tea stories were funny and interesting.

Angela McRae said...

I've read the first book but not the second, so thanks for the review! (And I agree with you about her terrific personality shining through!)