Drink Tea, Read Books: Pairing Books with Tea Varieties
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The second book in the Little Kid, Big City! series comes out today, and where we previously got to explore New York, this time we're going to be poking around London. A travelogue of charming pictures and descriptions, written as a sort of choose your own adventure, is a fantastic way to read a travel book no matter what, but you know what would improve it? A cup of tea. Always a cup of tea, you can trust us on this one. So, to help you with this, we're picking some books and some teas we think go pretty well together, so you can settle in properly.
Little Kid, Big City!: London by Beth Beckman with London Fog Tea
A choose your own adventure of all the most classic sights and experiences in London, what could pair better than a delicious tea with the word London in the name? A black tea – often Earl Grey, a smooth and gentle black tea – which is mixed with steamed milk for a very subtle, very warm and delicious taste. It is easy to enhance with flavors, just a hint of lavender added in will produce a fragrant and delicious drink. The perfect cup to sip on while choosing your own routes through London, perhaps encountering fog along the way.
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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury with Lapsang Souchong Tea
Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury's classic novel about censorship and book burning. Set in a future where books are banned, and Firemen come around to dispense the fire and burn up the books, we meet one Fireman – Guy Montag – who gradually begins to learn that perhaps books are remarkable, burning them is tragic, and knowledge is invaluable. A classic of a book which is both taught in schools, and banned in other places, a sure sign of a book that's touched a nerve remarkably well.
What better drink to go with this than Lapsang Souchong? Lapsang is a delicious tea with a powerful smell of campfire and smoke to it, and a delicious taste which reminds us of autumn and Halloween and cool evenings beside campfires. Most tea is simply dried, but Lapsang is smoke-dried over a pinewood fire, giving the distinctive smell and taste. You can smell a wafting bit of smoke-steam from your cup of tea, while reading a novel full of smoke and fire.
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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen with Lady Grey Tea
Here we pair a classic older novel with a surprisingly recent type of tea.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is an intensely clever book which occasionally gets read without noticing the cleverness, which is always a shame. Austen's razor-sharp dialog, dry humor, and pointed comments and illustrative moments about the characters in the book, all serve to both poke fun at them, hold them up for examination, and treat them with affection. Read attentively, it's an incredibly clever novel and an absolute delight.
With this, we are pairing Lady Grey Tea. A surprisingly recent tea (the 1990s), invented by Twinings and owned by them, it's nevertheless inspired a tremendous number of imitators, all of them equally delicious. It's very similar to an Earl Grey, with similar smooth notes of flavor, but there's more variety to the flavor, and more subtle notes, it's usually made with lemon, orange, and bergamot, all of these flavors blending together into a unique and delicious drink. In a way, it's very clever and very subtle, with a lot more going on than someone might notice if they were just casually drinking it, which is very much the same as Pride & Prejudice, although you should probably read that one and not drink it. Do be sure not to get the book and the tea mixed up, you won't enjoy it.
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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell with Jasmine Green Tea
David Mitchell is perhaps best known for Cloud Atlas, but it was a couple of books later that he wrote The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a remarkable and powerful story of a young man – Jacob de Zoet – who travels to Dejima, which is a tiny and artificial island off the coast of Japan, the only allowed contact point with the otherwise closed-off country. Here, Jacob attempts to navigate the cultures and personalities of a range of people occupying Dejima, as well as the Japanese peoples who cross the small bridge and come in to see them.
A subtle, beautiful novel about love and loneliness, a perfect tea to drink with it would be a jasmine green tea. There are whole ranges of green tea varieties – green tea is really just a different way of drying and preparing the same tea leaves used in black tea – and it supports and is enhanced remarkably well by fruit and floral flavors. Jasmine green tea is probably one of the most common and most easy to find of all the myriad varieties. The smell of the green tea and the jasmine produce one thing, and then the taste of them produce an entirely separate experience, as with many teas. A lovely tea at any time of year, but particularly wonderful in the early spring, when the world is waking up and blooming. Sit outside on a cool morning, with an amazingly touching novel in your lap, and a cup of jasmine green tea close at hand, and it'll be a remarkably idyllic morning.
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Of course, tea is amazing and delicious and contains an unbelievable number of varieties and types all over the world. So, while this list is a terrific place to get started, why not venture out and buy far too many books and far too many teas, and then pair them all in wild and unlikely combinations, until your house is overwhelmed by both tea and books? This might sound like a dodgy idea but trust us…it definitely is. But it'll be delicious and amazingly entertaining.
A Book You May Enjoy
Peter Damien lives in the Pacific Northwest where he writes quite a lot, reads quite a lot, cooks many things, and tries to keep his cat from escaping outside. He’s been published at BookRiot, SF Signal, and a great number of magazines and anthologies. You can find him on twitter @peterdamien , or you can say his name three times in a mirror, but that won’t work and you’ll feel very silly.