Hello everyone! I just love libraries. The hushed peace, the smell of so many books packed together, just
waiting to be opened. And I love tea. The warm, calming sensation that comes with sipping (silently) the subtle flavors of suntanned leaves steeped with honey, or sugar and cream, or just plain. Books and tea, a perfect pair.
I was recently invited to participate in a Romance Writers Tea Party at my local library. All the libraries in my county were part of the program. Three romance authors were invited to each party to rotate between tables where attendees drank tea/lemonade, ate cookies and strawberries, and asked us questions. It was a marvelous event!
The library had copies of our books on the table, and we could bring others for purchase as well as our free swag for attendees. Keeping with the tea theme, I made paper tea bag/chocolate holders with my web site and book covers on the outsides. I set one at each attendee spot, along with my book marks, notepads and pens. Inside one of the paper tea holders, I stamped a shamrock. Whoever sat at that table spot won a free copy of my book, CAPTURED HEART.
The tea party was held in the library conference/children’s program room and started out with everyone mingling, getting refreshments and choosing a seat. One spot, for the author, was left open at the three tables. The librarian introduced each of us with a brief bio, which we provided to her.
Collage for CAPTURED HEART – Scottish Historical Romance
I started off at each table showing some of my collages, which I use to help me write, and discussed my process. It was very casual and attendees asked questions throughout, although the very on-top-of-it librarian had a list of potential questions on each table. At twenty minutes, she encouraged us to switch to another table, although we all ran over.
At the end, attendees were able to fill up on refreshments, take a look at the books, sign up for newsletters and talk with each author if they had individual questions. And a couple people bought my books. It was a unique, fun way to meet new readers (even if you don’t like tea). If you are a librarian or have a local library, you could suggest a Romance Writers Tea as an outreach event.
Here are a few details about my particular experience:
Three authors were invited to attend each event. Each author received a $100 honorarium.
Between 15 and 20 readers attended each tea party.
The library made up fliers and a poster for each entrance into the library. They asked for reservations so they would know how much food to have.
A beverage station was set up with hot water, various tea bags, sugars, creamer/milk, lemonade and ice water.
Attendees were asked to bring their own tea cups but could use the paper ones provided.
Cookies and strawberries were set out with napkins and little plates.
Tables had table cloths and simple center pieces (I brought my own tea pots for the center pieces).
I’m the only one who wore a hat, but a library could suggest hats as part of the fun.
The event took about one and a half hours.
Have you ever attended a similar author event in your area? Were there interesting features/details that made it even more fun?
For more information about Heather McCollum, including her homemade Chai Tea Latte recipe (link below), please check out her web site and sign up for her newsletter http://www.heathermccollum.com/.
I grew up drinking cambric tea, which is mostly milk and sugar, with only a little bit of actual tea (appropriate for a 5-year-old). My mother and grandparents always had tea, sitting around the kitchen table whenever we came to visit. My grandfather, a Polish survivor of the holocaust, liked his very sweet. Often he would hold a sugar cube between his teeth and drink the tea through it. There were always boxes of sugar cubes at grandma’s house, so I could build “igloos” and houses. Whether news was joyous or terrible, the first thing we did was put the tea kettle on the stove.
Thus I grew up craving the comfort of a cup of cream tea (made with sugar and milk). I’ve since tried all sorts of tea, but my favorite is still plain orange picot black tea (which doesn’t taste like orange at all). I also love certain chai teas, and brew it from scratch occasionally (see the recipe at the end).
But what has drawn my muse, who is very interested in history, is the atmosphere and ceremony around tea. I try to pull out my china tea pot and cups at least once a week, sometimes daily. I invite my 9yo daughter (who loves tea too) to have a small tea party, because it slows us down. One cannot rush about when moving bone china cups, balanced in their saucers, and hot, delicate tea pots. So we take a breather and sit, daintily pouring, stirring and sipping. It’s a chance to talk of plans and dreams, a chance to step out of the busy rush of the world.
We are not alone in our “ceremony” around tea. Many cultures, from the British to the Japanese, have very specific movements and steps around serving tea. Legend credits the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, from the 28th century BC, with the discovery of tea. Worried about disease, he always had his water boiled before drinking it. One day, while touring a province, his servants accidentally allowed camellia leaves to blow into the water. It smelled so good that the emperor drank some of the broth and loved the refreshing taste.
Although tea’s popularity spread through China very quickly (known as Ch’a), it was not introduced to continental Europe until Elizabethan times (16th century), and Queen Elizabeth I chartered the East India Company. Despite this, tea did not become accessible in England until the Dutch brought it over in 1657. It was very expensive and sold for medicinal purposes in England, so it wasn’t consumed regularly, even though it was already common in Russia, Portugal and Italy. It wasn’t until Cromwell was disposed in England that tea caught the English taste buds, when King Charles II (1660) brought it into vogue with his fondness for it.
In 1823 tea was discovered growing wild in India, and the British began cultivating it in 1834, bringing the first black tea back to England. Soon then the nation became almost obsessed with brewing their tea, its popularity reaching its apex during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1900). At the time “high tea” was considered the working man’s last meal of the day. It could consist of hot dishes and meats, as well as cakes to go along with their tea. In contrast, “afternoon tea” was generally for high society and served in the late afternoon, several hours before dinner. Dainty and elegant, it was more like what we think of as a tea party today.
One of my heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962), used to take afternoon tea daily at 3 PM. Even if she was on the Roosevelt yacht, she would have the captain weigh anchor at 3 PM for tea. She had a small tea service carried on hiking trips too, so that at 3PM the hiking party could take a break. In honor of this great lady, when we head up to Maine each summer, near her summer home of Campobello, we try to have afternoon tea every day at 3PM.
I’ve been to many tea parties. My daughter and I attended a tea at the American Girl store in Washington DC. Three tiered plates filled with finger sandwiches, scones, strawberries and cookies made a delicious centerpiece to go with our tea. I’ve hosted tea parties at my house for large groups and small groups. Just yesterday, my mother and I attended an Agatha Christie tea at our local community theater. We wore hats and ate dainty cucumber and dill sandwiches before our backstage tour and a “Visit with Agatha” play.
You might think I’m a bit tea obsessed (and I’m not even British). I suppose I am, but what draws me to this tradition is more than delicately-flowered, curved tea pots and crustless sandwiches. The warmth of the drink, the slowing down, the soft clink of the cup on the saucer, the miniature, selected snacks – they all add up to something comforting. And in this world, taking a moment of comfort can center us to deal with whatever life throws at us.
Do you take tea? Why? What is your favorite tea or tea snacks?
1 cup whole milk
2 cups filtered water
1 cinnamon stick in pieces
4 cardamom pods
1 tsp. black peppercorn
2 star anise pods
¼ tsp. ginger powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. black tea
Put milk and water in medium saucepan. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, anise pods, ginger, and sugar. Bring to boil (watch close so it doesn’t boil over), then simmer for 5 minutes on low heat. Turn off heat, add tea leaves and steep, covered for 2-3 minutes. Strain out spices, then enjoy! Serves 2.