Let me begin by sharing the wonderful news I received on the morning of my birthday last week. I was chosen for the circulation assistant position that I applied for a couple of weeks ago, officially making me part of the Wayne County Public Library! SUPER YAY! I’ve never felt so overwhelmed in my life. It was definitely more than I could ask for. I’m thankful that I was given this opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience while doing something I absolutely love. Truly, I am in my element. I start training on Monday, and I am beyond excited!
Anyway, the book I’m going to share with you today is a juvenile fiction novel written by Laura Schaeffer. The Teashop Girls is a perfect fit for our current food theme and I adore it. It’s one of those books that landed in my hands at the right moment and I was glad I got the chance to read it.
“You can’t get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
— C. S. Lewis
Meet eighth-graders, Annie, Genna, and Zoe. They call themselves “The Teashop Girls,” and they’ve been best of friends since elementary. The story appealed to me because I was reminded of E.L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday. The Teashop Girls were the counterpart to Mrs. Olinski’s Academic Bowl team, The Souls.
Though I’ve never actively searched for juvenile fiction novels about food, I’m pleased to find a few titles from our library. The Teashop Girls is probably one of my favorites, next to Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots. I nearly gave up on the former because I wasn’t too happy about the last juvenile fiction food book I’ve read. Fortunately, Laura Schaeffer had a few tricks up her sleeve that made The Teashop Girls an enjoyable read. I got real into green tea after reading this, now I know much more about it there’s more than just one way, you know, see different blends of green tea at monicashealthmag.com
If you’re into tea, then you might like this book. I’m not big on tea but, given the way that the story was “packaged,” I would be pouring myself a cup in no time. The layout of the story is what stood out for me. Each chapter begins with a tea-related quote, and I’m a sucker for quotes, so you can imagine how that put a smile on my face.
Like Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots, The Teashop Girls included recipes. Laura Schaeffer, however, went above and beyond, and included side stories, tea-related beauty tips, as well as the official rules of The Teashop Girls written on the Teashop Handbook. I love seeing vintage tea ads and tea cards the most. These “extras” in the book make it fun to read. It adds authenticity and charm to the narrative and it reinforces the art of tea drinking.
“A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.”
— A.A. Milne
Unlike The View from Saturday, The Teashop Girls does not focus on the girls meeting regularly at The Steeping Leaf, the name of the tea shop owned by Annie’s grandmother, Louisa. The girls’ busy lives have taken over their regular meetings. Genna was focused on art and theater, while Zoe was involved with tennis practice. Annie wanted to feel as “grown-up” as her friends so she decided to work as a barista at the tea shop.
Yet, for Annie, there is more to it than just wanting to feel “grown-up” or having the chance to go out on a date with the cute barista boy who also works in the shop. As she noted in the book, “tea was more than tea. It was tradition. It was family.” Annie loved tea so much that it only made sense to her to work at the tea shop and help her grandmother.
There was so much value placed on tea that Annie’s grandmother refused to make tea out of teabags even though it made life easier. Louisa believed that true tea connoisseurs make tea through the old method. The tea ads, cards, and trivia in the book made me, as a reader—particularly one who does not drink tea—experience the “old-fashioned, loose-leaf” tea tradition. It also made me appreciate the love that Louisa and the Teashop Girls have for tea. I can imagine the same way for coffee, wine, and pastry lovers.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”
— Thich Nhat Hahn
Just when Annie was getting the hang of things at the shop, Louisa received an eviction notice. Refusing to lose this battle, Annie and her friends pinky-promised that they would do whatever it takes to save The Steeping Leaf. Laura Schaeffer’s storytelling was light and smooth, and the pace of the story was just right. The events that led to and after the conflict were carefully narrated in the book. This kind of narrative maintained the “Zen” character that Louisa and her tea shop embodied.
Laura Schaeffer’s debut novel has won my heart, and I hope it does the same for readers like you. The Teashop Girls is the Now and Then of books. It has its own voice and charm that deserve to be heard and noticed, respectively. If you wish to turn over a new leaf and add something different to your reading list, then find a copy of The Teashop Girls. To find out more about The Teashop Girls, you may visit its website.
As a treat, here is one of the recipes found in the book. Enjoy!
The Steeping Leaf Traditional Chai Iced Tea
- 1 quart water
- 1/2 cup black tea leaves
- 4 star anise, ground
- 1/2 tbsp powdered vanilla
- 1/2 tsp clove powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon, chopped
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 to 1 cup unrefined cane sugar
- 1 pint coconut milk
- Ice cubes
- Bring water to a boil.
- Place the tea, anise, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, and ginger in a big teapot. Pour the water over the tea and spices, and let steep until cool. Add sugar to taste.
- Strain into a clean, covered pitcher. Let the tea finish cooling to room temperature then refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Fill 4 tall glasses with ice cubes and add tea to three quarters full.
- Add 1/2 cup coconut milk to each glass and serve with a straw.