— Elizabeth Coatsworth
Quoted in A Valuable Moment of Life by Kate Finnegan in A Tea Reader Living Life One Cup At A Time
Quoted in The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo with introduction by Bruce Richardson
Recently, I overheard a waitress telling a customer that she had named her daughter “Autumn Grace” in honor of her favorite season. Autumn is my favorite season, too. Spring, though welcome after a brutal winter, always reminds me of a little girl pirouetting in a pastel-colored party dress hoping to attract attention. But Autumn seems to resemble a woman in the prime of life who needs no audience to observe her joy. Feet firmly planted on the ground, draped in a patchwork gown of gold, rust, and scarlet she laughs when the breeze tangles her hair. Autumn Grace knows the wisdom of celebrating today because Jack Frost will surely crash the party any day.
Standing at the kitchen sink the other morning, nursing a cup of tea, I glanced out the window toward the bee yard to see if I could spot any bees flying. Ever the optimists, they were, but the sky was also alive with hickory, maple, and oak leaves dancing on the wind. Down the road, a cluster of sugar maples jitterbugged in the breeze.
The afternoon after I wrote those paragraphs, we received nine inches of snow, just in time for Halloween. To add more trick to the treat, some small creature chewed jagged circles out of the pumpkins I’d stored on the deck to craft into jack o’lanterns. When I picked up the bigger one, I discovered that the interior had been scoured so clean that all I had to do was cut a lid and add a candle! Now the sky is grey, a few withered leaves cling to the trees, and all the snow has melted. But everyone knows that this is just a temporary reprieve. The grocery store’s bulletin board bristled with flyers today; one advertising a fundraiser book sale caught my eye. The headline read, “It’s going to be a long winter.” I’ve never been able to pass up a book sale, so I cheerfully stocked up, telling myself that it was for a good cause.
I discovered the first book in a new-to-me mystery series set in 1950s England about a lonely eleven-year-old girl who discovers a dying man in cucumber patch. “I wish I could say that I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - A Flavia de Luce Mystery was written by Alan Bradley, a 70 year old first –time novelist who spent most of his life working in television production. The Canadian had never set foot in England until he traveled to London to receive the 2007 Debut Dagger Award. There are several references to tea in his book; one of my favorites occurs when Flavia serves the police inspector a cup of warmed-over Fortnum and Mason Assam that she’s brewed in a beaker in her chemistry lab.
My office is crowded with floor-to-ceiling bookcases stuffed with tea books, but the book on my nightstand is A Tea Reader Living Life One Cup At A Time an anthology of readings complied by Katrina Avila Munichiello; www.tuttlepublishing.com. Her book has a novel take on tea. Munichiello divided contributions from tea lovers, vendors and authors (including me) into five types of tea experiences: Tea Reveries, Tea Connections, Tea Rituals, Tea Careers, and Tea Travels. I’ve enjoyed dipping into a different section every night to select a story to suit my mood, a pleasure similar to deciding which tea to brew. These true tales are intensely personal whether they were written in 1883 or last year, and feels like a peek through a keyhole to read about how tea has enriched other lives around the world.
Speaking of tea travels, I received a delightful email today from someone I don’t yet know about one of my books:
I recently visited New York City and used Tea in the City as my guide. I've written about it on my site The Tea Stylist. Here is a link to the article: http://theteastylist.com/2011/11/13/new-york-city-tea-ramble/. The guide was a wonderful resource. I've put a link to the Elmwood site if readers wish to purchase and a link to your site so they can learn more about you.
Best regards -
If you’d like to learn more about one of the shops featured in Tea in The City New York, please pick up a copy of TeaTime magazine’s special holiday issue and turn to the article on page 52, “James Robinson Antiques- Exquisite tea wares from bygone eras.”
Bruce Richardson, www.benjaminpress.com, recently sent me his beautifully illustrated new book that contains the original text of The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo. First published in 1906 this important work has never gone out of print. I had read about Okakura and visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, but never realized the importance of the relationship between the two and how they embodied the bridge between East and West. Nor, until now, had I taken the time to read the entire book. How I wish that I had read it before I visited Japan where I learned that “Zen is another word for tea.” The chapter titled The Cup of Humanity contains a sentence that seems ripped from today’s headlines, “The heaven of modern humanity is indeed shattered in the Cyclopean struggle for wealth and power… Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. “ I’m resisting the urge to swallow this book whole, and forcing myself to savor it one cup of tea at a time.
If you’d like to order one of my books as a gift for yourself or a tea friend, pls. order them directly from Amazon. I’m happy to inscribe them for you, just include the names with your order.
Sadly, in this economy, given the price of insurance, it is no longer practical to conduct my NYC tea tour business. I loved sharing my favorite city with tea lovers from around the world, and it was a privilege to learn from you. I’m grateful for your support and all the lovely things that you wrote about my tours. I’ll continue to write about tea in the city, however both on my blog and for other publications.
Future newsletters will be posted on my blog: http://www.worldinateacup.blogspot.com/