Tea & Books: Spring Pairings
Ariana Salvo was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore, teaching English to international students and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.
We are so happy to have Ariana back to share some more great tea and book pairings. Enjoy!
By Ariana Salvo
Looking out the window right now it’s hard to believe that the spring equinox is here. Almond and fruit trees may be in bloom where you live, but on Prince Edward Island it has been snowing steadily for three days straight. If, like me, you’re reading this from a place where the last frost date is mid-June, this blog post should provide you with enough tea and book pairing recommendations to help you survive what remains of the months that the rest of the world calls spring. Those of you lying bare legged in dappled light beneath a blossoming tree…I begrudgingly acknowledge that you deserve good tea and books too ;-) Here are five tea and book pairing suggestions to enjoy while that refreshing breeze caresses your skin and a sweet blushing cascade of petals gracefully dances across your page.
Suggestion #1: Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones & Golden Monkey
Luvvie Ajayi Jones’ New York Times bestseller Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual is my top feel-good read for 2021 so far. In it, Jones leads us through practical steps we can take to make sure that we do not let fear stop us from doing what we were put on this planet to do. She explains that often the thing that people criticize us for being “too much” of is in actual fact our superpower—the thing that allows us to see the world from a perspective that is entirely unique to us. Jones illustrates her recommendations with personal accounts of facing and overcoming her own fears as well as inspiration from her maternal grandmother, who exemplified to Jones how to embrace and celebrate being fully, wholeheartedly and unapologetically oneself. In one of my favourite parts of this book, Jones writes about the tradition of Oriki—a poem of sorts written for every individual at birth and sung to them throughout their life in moments of celebration, achievement, transition and loss. Jones shares her own Oriki and some she has written for others, and then encourages her reader to write their own…a personal battle cry, if you will, that we can recite out loud in moments of doubt and uncertainty to remind ourselves of our superpowers.
This book should be read while sipping a cup of Lady Baker’s Golden Monkey tea. My new favourite, Golden Monkey is a bright, golden coppery tea that is full-bodied, sweet and smooth. Golden Monkey is grown in China's Wuyi mountains and is made from a particularly downy golden tippy leaf. It pairs perfectly with Professional Troublemaker because just like the book this tea truly is almost impossible to put down. You will find yourself smiling with profound pleasure, and once you take your last sip you will be spurred to action—the action of heading to the kitchen while still clutching the book to make yourself another cup so you can experience the pleasure all over again!)
Suggestion #2: Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad & Willow’s Dream
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted is the story of New York Times columnist Suleika Jaouad’s journey with leukemia, which she was diagnosed with in her early 20s shortly after graduating from college and joining the “real world.” She spent the following four years in treatment and chronicling her experiences in the New York Times column Life Interrupted. When she was declared “cured” by doctors, Jaouad realized that she’d spent so many years battling just to survive that she had no idea how to live or reclaim all the time she had lost. With the goal of finding some answers, she embarked on a 15,000-mile road trip across the United States to connect with some of the people who had written her letters when she was undergoing treatment. The result is a harrowing but inspiring exploration of the very fine line between illness and health, and life and death; the ways that relationships both provide essential support and are profoundly impacted by long-term illness; and what it looks like to start over when life is interrupted.
I read this book while sipping Willow’s Dream because this tea was made to be enjoyed when you need to be uplifted and restored. A combination of Cream of Earl Grey and Lavender, for me every sip made me feel more peaceful and balanced. The warm aroma of bergamot and calming perfume of lavender make you feel like you are drifting to sleep on warm summer’s day in the Mediterranean—a sensation I think Jaouad would have appreciated during the ups and downs of her journey.
Suggestion #3: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles & Moonlong
I have read too many books set during World War II, so when I first came across The Paris Library I *almost* passed it over. What stopped me was that it is based on the true story of how the librarians at the American Library in Paris resisted Nazi occupation with the only weapon they had access to: books. The novel moves back and forth between Paris in the 1940s and Montana in the 1980s. The link between the two time periods is Odile—a French woman who served as a librarian at the American Library in Paris during WWII. When the Germans occupy Paris and ban Parisian Jews from the library the librarians join the Resistance, risking their own lives to deliver books to their Jewish readers. Jumping forward to the 1908s, Odile is settled in Montana and living a fairly solitary existence when Lily, a lonely teenager desperately craving adventure asks her for French lessons. The two forge an unlikely friendship that teaches them both important lessons about honesty, trustworthiness, love, and forgiveness. This novel is an ode to the power of books and reading. But it is also about the illusion of separateness, the unpredictable ways that our personal choices influence the lives of those around us, and the fact that justice only triumphs if there are people courageous enough to fight for it.
This story is best enjoyed with a cup of Moonlong. Cultivated in the lush Wu Yi Mountains of China, this partially oxidized oolong is light and surprisingly creamy, with a smooth sweetness. I paired this tea with The Paris Library because when immersed in hot water the tightly curled leaves unfurl, releasing an incredibly powerful and calming aroma, which reminds me of how the librarians responded to danger and pressure not with fear, but with a remarkable degree of courage and generosity.
Suggestion #4: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri & Organic Island Strawberry with Organic Lavender
The Beekeeper of Aleppo tells the story of Nuri, a beekeeper, and his artist wife Afra, who, until war shatters their world, taking everything that mattered from them, had been living a simple but richly textured life in Aleppo, Syria. Forced to leave the home that is literally crumbling around them, the couple embark on a perilous journey by water and land through refugee camps in Turkey and Greece, with the goal of reaching England, where Nuri’s business partner Mustafa has set up a new apiary. Physically blinded by the grief of losing what she loved most, Afra’s confronts darkness, terror and complete reliance on her husband with an equal amount of justifiable insecurity and incredible forbearance. The two navigate through hopelessness, desperation, corruption, powerlessness and the constant threat of violence in search of a safe place to sink their roots. Lefteri explores the vulnerability and helplessness of being entirely at the mercy of the unfamiliar with incredible sensitivity and insight. This is a heartbreaking story, but Nuri and Afra’s dogged determination to cling to even the faintest shadow of hope unexpectedly left me with a renewed faith in the resilience of the human spirit.
I read this book while sipping a mix of Island Strawberry Green tea and Organic Lavender (95% green tea, 5% lavender so that the lavender doesn’t overpower the green tea). Grown in the lush highlands of China’s Hunan province, the Island Strawberry Green is a bright, delicately sweet tea infused with sun-ripened strawberries grown on Prince Edward Island and tangy papayas. I combined it with a touch of Lady Baker’s Organic Lavender for its restorative and spiritually uplifting and calming qualities. While savouring the lingering fruity aftertaste I imagined Nuri contentedly tending his hives in a field of lavender, the air alive with the buzz of honeybees.
Suggestion #5: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner & Jasmine Dragon Tears
The Lost Apothecary tells the stories of Nella, the owner of a hidden apothecary in England in the 1700s; and Caroline, an aspiring historian living in the United States in the present day. After one bad decision, Nella finds herself dispensing poisons to the seemingly endless number of women in London who are seeking revenge against the oppressive men in their lives. Operating undetected for many years, a chance meeting sets off a chain of disastrous consequences that carry forward to the present day. Discovering that her husband has cheated on her shortly before leaving for a wedding anniversary trip to Paris, Caroline decides to take the trip alone. The discovery of a glass vial in the mud along the banks of the Thames sends her on a search to learn more about London’s unsolved “apothecary murders.” What she discovers changes the course of her own life and solves a mystery that had eluded investigators for centuries. Yes—one of the two main characters is an accomplice to murder many times over; and the fact that so many women felt they had to resort to murder to solve their problems is incredibly dark…and yet I recommend reading this anyway. It’s hard to put down, and you’ll feel like you have stepped through a portal straight into the streets of London in the 1700s. This is a quick read, and unlike Nella, it’s a decision that you won’t regret!
This is the perfect story to read while sipping a cup of Jasmine Dragon Tears . A popular and exotic Jasmine, the Artisan handcrafted pearls from China have a smooth, slightly sweet flavour with a delicate floral finish. I chose it because like many of the ingredients used in the remedies (and poisons!) used by apothecaries in 1700 London, I imagine that the quest to collect enough dragon’s tears to flavour this tea would be an adventure in itself!
I hope you enjoy these spring tea and book pairings. I’d love to receive your feedback in the comments section below after you try them out!
Thank you for your comment Linda! So happy to hear that you enjoyed this post with your cup of tea! And Susana—I think that sounds like a SUPERB blog idea. Road trip to various island potters….sounds like it has the makings for a great social campaign to highlight our island potters. Post a photo of you sipping your fav tea in your fav locally made mug….Thanks for reading. xox
While reading this article, I paused to go to the kitchen to make myself a Lady Baker Lady Slipper tea latte. It was a delicious tea and reading time. You make every book and tea sound so good, I want them all!
Great idea, Susana!
I love the pairings of teas and books. Might there be an opportunity to pair teas and mugs from Island potters?