I have a new passion and that is tea.
My passion used to be Dr. Pepper, but then I married Jonathan and he didn't like coke (I say, "coke" 'cause I'm from the southwest, see?) and so I gave that up for love. I tried to like coffee but it just never happened all the way and why push things? Jonathan didn't like that either anyway. Coke Zero has been a nice substitute (after 7 years of marriage with no DP there had to be an outlet somewhere!) and tea floated in and out. I knew I was supposed to like tea because I liked books. The two go hand and in hand. Alas. I felt like a failure in the beverage department.
Then something happened.
My friend took me to a tea house and I became instantly obsessed with the different varieties and flavors which can be made and drunk all throughout the day for my glory and benefit. (This, my friends, was all of four months ago.) Now every day you'll find me concocting new flavors as I mix and match my bags (not brave enough for loose leaves just yet) to make things like: cinnamon chocolate, chocolate rose, peppermint chocolate. (I go a little heavy on the chocolate, you see, but you would too if you tried it. And you should try it.)
So, as I say, my friend took me to this tea house little knowing that she was going to create a TEA MONSTER. But that's exactly what she did.
Anne of Green Gables one. Next on our list is a Downton Abbey tea (even though I quit watching Downton this season because I was tired of having my heart ripped out of my chest and mercilessly stomped on). (Before anyone gets upset - or not - I read every spoiler that I could find online for Season 4 so I feel up to speed and once I've calmed down from episode one I may, eventually, go on and watch some more. But as long as my emotions are in play, I will not. Besides, the Olympics are on and they are more interesting.)
But to get back to the point - I'm really into tea and have at least half a dozen themes for parties at the ready. On my list is a Jane Austen tea and so onto my Amazon wishlist went Tea with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson. And then it arrived one day thanks to a surprise from my husband who much prefers that I drink tea and not Dr. Pepper. Or coffee. Or Coke Zero. (Ladies and gentleman, we have found our compromise!)
Here's another confession: I've never really connected with Austen. I think that's due in part to the fact that all women everywhere seem to and so I felt pressured to like her when I wasn't yet ready to. (What can you glean from my personality with that last statement?) Then, a year or so ago I re-read Emma and enjoyed it. As our family is in the planning stages for a trip to England, I've been thinking that I should read and re-read some Austen to prepare myself when Jonathan handed me Tea with Jane Austen. I
Tea with Jane Austen takes a look at Jane's relationship with this popular beverage. She explores a little of the history of tea, explaining why it featured so heavily in Jane's works. For instance, when tea was first presented to the public it was very expensive and only the wealthy could afford to drink it. The Austen family went to great pains to purchase their tea which they kept locked up, away from the servants. Jane herself was the one who made the family's tea and approached it very thoughtfully.
Author Kim Wilson explores the social aspect of tea, how it grew in popularity, the opposition it met with and, of course, the way it was come to be taken. This is a very fascinating read not just as it relates to Jane Austen but how we, the modern reader, can relate to tea as well. There is something very relaxing about taking a cup of hot tea. For one thing, it's usually served hot so that you can't gulp it in one fell swoop. You take small sips, usually while reading a book or conversing with another. A hot pot of tea makes the world slow down somehow. Like magic. It sets one at ease in a way I've only recently begun to understand. A pretty cup in the hand delights the spirit as well as the eyes and there is encouragement in taking a moment to stop and just be.
Tea has long been linked to books, of course, and I can see now how fitting that is. You want to sit and savor the words as well as the flavor on your tongue. In a world of books and tea there is no hurry and no rush and that is the very opposite of what we're used to experiencing in our lives. It is good to be busy and to be productive but it is also important to stop and rest and fellowship. I think there is something in the practice and habit of taking tea that ministers to the soul. It gives one pause. And it's pretty. Also, it is yummy. There is nothing to complain about here.
If you love tea or Jane Austen (or probably both) then I think you'll find Tea with Jane Austen a quick and entertaining read. I loved it.
For the curious, I read the book in two sittings. The first half of the book was accompanied by a couple of cups of pumpkin spice chocolate tea. The second reading was spent with peppermint chocolate.