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A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup At A Time

I got a note from one of my former students, Katrina Ávila Munichiello,  that she had published her first book! She told me that the book, “A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time,” is a collection of non-fiction essays from authors across the world were inspired by a moment with tea. Tea shop owners, importers, a farmer, academics, authors, and everyday tea lovers wrote about a moment, decision, career change or trip that involved tea. These current essays were intermingled with those of authors from the past whose experiences mirrored more contemporary tea drinkers.”

I was so thrilled. She sent me a copy of the book and I really loved it so that I asked her to do a guest post for me. So without any further delay, here you go:

Katrina Avila Munichiello in her own words:

Until 1996 the only tea I ever drank was in a can, iced, or made from tea bags from the grocery store. Then one day I wandered into a new tea shop in Cambridge, MA and saw a menu of 80 teas; I was fascinated. I spent the next ten years learning everything I could about tea — reading books, asking questions, and drinking extremely large quantities of it. In 2007 I started my blog, Tea Pages, and I not only intensified my love of tea, but also rediscovered my love of writing.

One of the wonderful things about blogging is the community that you can build and the people you have the opportunity to “meet.” One day I received an email from a man named George Constance. He wrote, “My company…evacuated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and is rebuilding in the New England area…We’d like to send you a sample to review. We’re assuming you’ll be kinder than the other Katrina we briefly met in New Orleans.” I loved his teas, but I was even more intrigued by his story.

A few months later I had the opportunity to interview a woman named Laura Childs, a mystery writer who pens a book series that takes place in a tea shop. In the course of the interview she told me about a trip she once took with her husband on a bullet train past the Japanese tea fields. I began to think about how different Mr. Constance and Ms. Childs were from one another, yet how powerfully they had both been impacted by tea. I decided that someone needed to collect these stories, to help expand the image of who a “tea drinker” is, and to demonstrate how tea, like so many foods, can be a powerful trigger for memories. “A Tea Reader” was born.

I put out a call online for essays and contacted people throughout the industry that I had met through the blog and my other writing projects. I spent the next year gathering stories and researching essays from classic texts that could echo the current stories, reinforcing that tea has been shaping our memories and experiences for generations. I traveled to London to meet an essayist and to research texts at the British Library. I sent emails to a professor in Korea and a tea farmer in Hawaii. I visited shops and, after collecting a rich selection of essays, I sent out proposals to publishers.

There was one publisher that I had my eye on. I will never forget the Saturday that I popped open my email as my son and daughter rode their bikes in the driveway with my husband. I carried my laptop to the driveway and said, “They want to buy my book.”

Now, here we are two and a half years after I sent out that first call for essays, preparing for its release. I flip through my copy and feel incredibly proud that I am now able to share these works. I hope others feel the power of that simple cup of tea in a mug that Dorothy Ziemann shared with her dad on the last day they spent alone together before his death. I hope they celebrate the excitement that Dheepa Maturi felt when she decided to leave her job as a lawyer to pursue her passion for tea. I hope they experience a moment of calm with Frank Hadley Murphy as he describes what he calls “the spirit of tea.”

As I said in my introduction, “What is striking…is that no matter how far I travel from childhood days, the emotions evoked by those early tea moments remain visceral. The memory of that hot, milky tea is one of a mom’s comfort, warm blankets and listening to my favorite books being read to me. Remembering the iced tea gives way to thoughts of blue skies, newly cut grass, and running barefoot. The emotion I feel about these moments make them as important as…other, more “elegant,” experiences. Tea has a remarkable power to spark such images and nostalgia. It is from this power that my tea journey and the idea of [this book] evolved.”

About Katrina -

Bio: Katrina Ávila Munichiello was born and raised in a mill town in central Maine, the child of two career educators. After graduating from Tufts University and earning a Master of Public Health degree from Boston University she spent eight years working in non-profit administration. Once she left the workforce to become a stay-at-home mom, she turned her interest in tea to a more serious study. She launched her Tea Pages blog (http://teapages.blogspot.com) in 2007 and by 2009 she was writing feature length articles on tea, parenting, and food allergies for consumer and trade magazines. She was also writing copy for tea company blogs and websites. Katrina currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children and has recently completed her Level 2 certification from the Specialty Tea Institute. Her first book, a collection of tea-inspired essays titled A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time, is being published by Tuttle Publishing in October 2011.

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Comments

  1. Roz Cummins says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. The photograph evokes such wonderful memories… of chaiwallahs with their characteristic staccato call of ‘Chaai garam chaaai’ on trains, sipping the hot sweet brew watching the paddy fields rush by, & for those 10 minutes, all that matters is you, your chai & your contemplative self.. *mmmm*

  3. A book all about tea? I gotta own that one :-)

  4. In a world of coffee drinkers, I only drink tea. It would be lovely to have a book that celebrates “the pause that refreshes”.

  5. What a lovely post and a beautiful idea for a book! How fortunate she was to have had you as a teacher and mentor. And in turn, it must be so fulfilling for you to see how far Katrina has come. Congratulations! I must get a copy of this book!

  6. Donna Shor says:

    Hello Monica–It is always a joy to read anything you write, so I know that if you recommend this, it will be a lovely read.
    I still remember fondly my little “lesson” with you, and I
    love seeing your articles appear in unexpected places.

  7. Sigrid Trombley says:

    What a terrific post, Katrina (and Monica). I won’t say none of this would have been possible without the Internet, but I think it would have been unlikely.

    We hear often of the negative aspects of the Internet, but this is wonderful story of connection, community building and sharing.

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