I can think of one such "bible": The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
. This book, written a century ago, is an account of the history, historical figures, philosophy, and religion associated with the Japanese tea ceremony. It's a short read, and I have a .pdf
available to download.Lu Yu's "Cha Jing" ("Classic of Tea")
is often cited as the "Bible" of the tea world; however, this work is not particularly interesting to us and is not a good account of the history of tea. Instead, this work is more of an encyclopaedia of tea during the Tang dynasty. The teas and teaware cited in this book are not commonly found in today's world.
As noted above, there's no one seminal work covering all of tea history. The closest might be "The True History of Tea" by Victor Mair.
However, I don't think this one even comes close. The reason is that tea history can be very involved and detailed, and it quickly branches apart when tea leaves China. There are some very good accounts of the history of tea in China, Japan, Korea, and the West (tea production in India and places outside Asia is entirely due to the British), all of which take very different paths for different reasons.
If you want to focus on specific watershed periods in the history of tea, then I suggest researching the following:
- The Tang dynasty, when tea and Zen (Chan) Buddhism began their courtship and when tea first made its way to Japan;
- Rikyu, a seminal figure in the history of the Japanese tea ceremony (this book may help);
- The Opium Wars, when China put an embargo on British trade and forced the British to establish tea plantations in India in order to satisfy their newfound lust for tea.
Edit: holy cow, I totally misread your post. I'm sorry. In terms of learning about the types of tea available today - well, to be quite honest, I think you'd have to start with the history of tea, how powdered tea came first (when Japan discovered Chinese tea, which explains matcha), brick tea came second (today pu'er, liu'an, and other kinds of teas are still transported as bricks), and loose leaf came third (when the British Empire discovered Chinese tea).
I really do think that we need to put up stickies about the different kinds of tea. It's a common question around here. I don't know of any books off the top of my head that are an accurate resource for this information (again, because tea in Japan is very different from tea in China and again from tea in Korea and India and so on, and because within each region there are hundreds if not thousands of varieties of tea). There are some resources that are good but they are limited to specific regions. I might start working on such sticky posts myself; perhaps Chip could assist.