It's Always Teatime

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It's Always Teatime

Fiction about Tea

Tea: I can't start my day without it. I've read a lot of tea books about tea, tea ceremonies, and so on, so I was pleased to find that there are many novels on the topic. I hoped tea would be a main character, but alas, even with "tea" in the title, sometimes there's nary a drop. Brew up a pot of your favorite and get reading.

If you like series, there are two tea-centered ones to recommend. Laura Childs' Tea Shop mysteries star Theodosia Browning, the owner of Indigo Tea Shop. Each book in the series is named after a type of tea. Follow Theodosia as she solves a mystery and handles her romantic entanglements while running her shop. A new series, Tea & Treachery, the first book in the Tea by the Sea series by Vicki Delany stars Lily Roberts, who likes Theodosia Brown, opens a tea shop and, well, things happen. Childs' series takes place in Charleston, S.C. while Delany's takes place in Cape Cod. So choose your preferred locale. Both series have recipes for tea-time related pastries and other snacks, plus tips on teas. Both will give you a good sense of place -- in fact, I ready several of the Tea Shop mysteries before my first trip to Charleston and found that it was full of good tourism tips.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. Pu'er tea is one of the rarest of teas. Learn the history of this special tea -- how and where it grows and the people who care for it -- in this intriguing novel. See is known for her historical fiction centering on the lives of Chinese (and sometimes, other Asian) women. In this novel, you'll keep reading as you learn about an ancient culture while being engrossed in the story of Li-Yan and her daughter.

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jeffries A young woman marries a (much older) tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and finds herself struggling to adapt. If you're a fan of British Raj dramas on Masterpiece Theatre, you'll love this novel. Aside from living on the tea plantation, and learning about the harsh conditions of the workers, this is heavy on the romance and light on the tea, but you'll be drawn in by the central mystery of the story involving twins.

The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe
Grace and Pete arrive in Macau as Pete begins a new job. Struggling with the realization that she is unable to have children, and to adapt to the culture of Macau, Grace finds friendship and the strength to carry on when she meets a baker who teaches her the art of macaron making and then opens a tea shop. You'll wish you had some macarons to go with your tea.

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata Learn about the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu) and Japanese culture in this novel by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Kawabata.

Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel
Layla learns early on that she was born under a bad sign, that she will have a difficult life and not marry. But she manages to defy her fate when she meets, falls in love with, and marries Manik. They go to Assam where he is a plantation manager. While there are some similarities to The Tea Planter's Wife, this novel is set in 1943 India, where protests against British rule are increasing. Follow Layla as she learns to socialize with the British wives and manage her staff, and indeed encounters some very difficult situations.

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali
Iranian-born but raised in America, Mina and her mother don't always see eye-to-eye. Mina is an artist who is studying business to appease her parents, and also refusing to meet the men they choose. But as we know, love comes whether we want it or not, and sometimes mother knows best. 

The Traveling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones
If you're not quite up for traveling in real life, take an armchair tour of New England and learn the history of all sorts of cakes, pies, and other treats. Laurie, an expat Brit, a former travel agent, now co-owner of a travel planning website called Va-Va-Vacation!, snags a job designing an itinerary for Pamela Lambert-Leigh, star of a British TV show, Teatime with Pamela, who is working on a cookbook featuring American cakes and other desserts. Make sure you've got your tea ready when you start reading to cut the sugar of all those treats. The lack of tea was disappointing, but it was a fun trip just the same. Warning: You may gain weight reading this book.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief by Jonelle Patrick
A blend of historical fiction and a bit of mystery, this 2020 publication centers on the art of the tea bowl and its importance in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu). Chapters alternate between feudal Japan, where you'll learn the story of the creator of the tea bowl, and modern Japan, where the owner of a ceramics shop searches for it and and is assisted by an American doctoral student who seeks to authenticate it. A little mystery and romance, and you'll be in suspense as you read on to learn the fate of the protagonists and the bowl itself.

Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
Fortune telling with tea leaves is an ancient art, but Vanessa's clairvoyance is at a much higher level. This 2020 publication combines magical realism with romance and family relationships, plus Paris.