Book Review: A Tea Reader, Living Life One cup At A Time

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup At A Time – An anthology of readings for tea lovers old and new.

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup At A Time

A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup At A Time

Katrina Avila Munichiello, Editor and Contributor

Excerpt from the essay, “The Tea Effect” by George Constance (p.129)

“. . . our first customer was a Bourbon Street stripper and our second a Catholic priest. Our customers were from every walk of life, and represented every race and mindset. So many events highlighted this free egalitarian draw that only a cup of tea could have. The vast diversity of tea available, the range of flavors and its ancient roots attracted the most diverse group of people that I’ve ever encountered.”

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Like the New Orleans tearoom owner quoted above, Katrina Munichiello has drawn together a diverse group of people, ancient and contemporary, to discuss the tea lifestyle. From quotes by Lu Yu and Robert Fortune to observations by Les Blank and James Norwood Pratt, she has coordinated an anthology of fifty-eight essays into five “Steeps” — chapters. Blending voices of tea lovers from antiquity with contemporary connoisseurs brews a meaningful experience. It is the intimacy and breadth of commentary that anchors this book in substance.
Beginning with one of her own pieces, Munichiello establishes a tone, “Falling In Love With Tea” that threads its way through the collection of Reveries, Connections, Rituals, Careers and Travels. Love and passion for tea was inspired by experience in tales and musings that cover a broad spectrum.
A Tea Reader is not a showcase for the famous writers and teachers that one might expect, but rather a gathering of the personal experiences of some of the most passionate people. A woman shares a last cup of tea with her dying father. A man rebuilds his Louisiana tea room destroyed by Hurricane  and finds the courage to rebuild,
“. . . when a well-armed National Guardsman peered through the same door my first customer entered . . . and I apologized for not having tea to offer them.”
The contemporary spokespersons who have introduced thousands to the renaissance of leaf love are also endearingly present, each speaking in a very personal voice.  Jane Pettigrew, Roy Fong, Norwood Pratt, Winnie Yu, and Sebastian Beckwith are all present. And we slip easily into the past with voices of Thomas Lipton, Robert Fortune and Lu Yu.

“Tea is said to be a way. This is because it is something one learns to appreciate through feeling, not though verbal instruction.”  – – Lu Yu

Is is the feeling” of tea that this diverse group of writers share in A Tea Reader, inviting us to transcend the words and launch a personal journey.
This is one of those books that may linger on the bedside table of a tea lover who invites chance to select articles at random. Or it could serve as an inspiration and guide for further study of the world of tea and the characters and commentators who share the lifestyle and the commitment.
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Katrina Avila Munichiello
Katrina Avila Munichiello, is currently a Senior Editor at Tea Magazine. She has published other articles in Yankee Magazine, The Boston Globe Magazine, Living Without and Tea Magazine. 
Published by Tuttle Publishing who provides tea lovers with many popular niche titles. 

Reviewed by Babette Donaldson

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