In February, it’s easy to fall into the winter doldrums. To combat them, I love to get cozy on the couch, steep some tea, and crack open a good book. If you’ve already read and sipped through our last book and tea pairings, here are some delicious, fresh combinations to keep you warm and entertained through the rest of the winter months.
Tea to Pair: Matcha
This strong, vegetal powdered green tea is a perfect match for this novel that takes place in the turbulent months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is sent to an internment camp, where she meets and falls in love with Christian Lange, the son of German immigrants who have been arrested for un-American activities. Their paths diverge; Emi returns to Japan and Christian enlists in the US Army, heading for the Pacific front and hoping to reunite with her. But Emi’s first love, a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, may still have her heart.
For fans of All the Light We Cannot See and Orphan Train, the author of the “thought-provoking” (Library Journal, starred review) and “must-read” (PopSugar) novel The Gilded Years crafts a captivating tale of three young people divided by the horrors of World War II and their journey back to one another.
During the turbulent months following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, twenty-one-year-old Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is locked behind barbed wire in a Texas internment camp. She feels hopeless until she meets handsome young Christian Lange, whose German-born parents were wrongfully arrested for un-American activities. Together, they live as prisoners with thousands of other German and Japanese families, but discover that love can bloom in even the bleakest circumstances.
When Emi and her mother are abruptly sent back to Japan, Christian enlists in the United States Army, with his sights set on the Pacific front—and, he hopes, a reunion with Emi—unaware that her first love, Leo Hartmann, the son of wealthy of Austrian parents and now a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, may still have her heart.
Fearful of bombings in Tokyo, Emi’s parents send her to a remote resort town in the mountains, where many in the foreign community have fled. Cut off from her family, struggling with growing depression and hunger, Emi repeatedly risks her life to help keep her community safe—all while wondering if the two men she loves are still alive.
As Christian Lange struggles to adapt to life as a soldier, his unit pushes its way from the South Pacific to Okinawa, where one of the bloodiest battles of World War II awaits them. Meanwhile, in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, as Leo fights to survive the squalor of the Jewish ghetto, a surprise confrontation with a Nazi officer threatens his life. For each man, Emi Kato is never far from their minds.
Flung together by war, passion, and extraordinary acts of selflessness, the paths of these three remarkable young people will collide as the fighting on the Pacific front crescendos. With her “elegant and extremely gratifying” (USA TODAY) storytelling, Karin Tanabe paints a stunning portrait of a turning point in history.
Tea to Pair: Earl Grey
This fragrant black tea, named for a nineteenth-century British prime minister, will enhance the experience of reading this captivating novel about Nan King, an oyster girl who becomes captivated by Kitty Butler, a male impersonator performing at the music hall. They have a mutual attraction, and when Kitty asks Nan to accompany her to London as her dresser and companion, Nan embarks on a journey of self-discovery through a richly crafted, endlessly surprising Victorian world.
Provincial Nan King’s world is forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer and follows her to London as her dresser and secret lover.
Tea to Pair: Orange Pekoe
While orange pekoe does not actually have an orange flavor, despite its name, it will pair well with this novel, also named for citrus. In the drought-ravaged wasteland that is near-future California, Luz and her partner Ray have refused to be evacuated. They are squatting in a starlet’s abandoned mansion and subsisting on whatever they can scavenge. But when they come in contact with a mysterious child, they start to want a different kind of life.
An unrelenting drought transformed Southern California into a barren and depleted landscape and forced most residents to evacuate into internment camps. But Luz and Ray stay behind, squatting in an abandoned mansion, until they encounter a mysterious child and start a perilous journey east in hopes of a better future.
Tea to Pair: Fruit Tisane
While not technically a “tea,” fruit tisane is a bright, flavorful delight either hot or iced. It is the perfect mate for this story about Eliza Roth, who co-owns a Brooklyn jewelry shop with her sister Sophie. After learning of an ex’s engagement, Eliza accidentally posts a picture of herself wearing an engagement ring to the shop’s Instagram account. Their 100,000 followers are thrilled for her and sales skyrocket. Should she explain the mistake or continue the ruse? Under financial pressure, she seeks out a fake fiancé.
Tea to Pair: Ginger Lemon Tea
Ginger lemon tea is warm and comforting, perfect for sipping when you aren’t feeling well. A perfect adventure of the heart to curl up with when you have a cold is this tale about Ted Flask, a lonely man who fiercely loves his companion Lily, an aging dachshund. When Lily’s health is threatened, Ted is willing to fight for her, no matter what.
Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.
Tea to Pair: Elderflower Green Tea
This unusual light, floral blend is a wonderful companion for this novel that combines folklore and science, suspense and romance. On a dark midwinter night in an ancient inn by the Thames, a grievously wounded stranger stumbles in with the dead body of a small child. But hours later, the girl comes back to life. Who is she and how has this happened? As questions mount, three different families step up to claim the girl: a mother who thinks she is her kidnapped daughter, a couple who thinks she is the product of their son’s secret affair, and the parson’s housekeeper, who sees in the child the image of her younger sister.
Tea to Pair: Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea
This bold, flavorful, surprising tea is a perfect mate for this book about Queenie Jenkins, a Jamaican British woman living in London who feels she doesn’t quite belong in either culture. After a messy breakup with her long-term boyfriend, she ends up rebounding with all the wrong men and wondering what she’s doing, who she is, and what she wants in life.
Tea to Pair: Blueberry White Tea
The juxtaposition of the light flavor of white tea with the strong berry flavor is perfect for this suspenseful, emotional, and warm novel. Eighty-four-year-old Florence has fallen in her apartment at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits for help to come, she thinks about her best friend, Elsie, and whether the terrible secret they share is about to be exposed. And why does the new resident look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?
Tea to Pair: Just Rose Tisane
There’s something inherently romantic about steeping tiny pink rosebuds and drinking a tea that smells and tastes like a flower garden. It will go well with this emotional, charming romantic comedy. Don Tillman is a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics. He decides he wants a wife, so he develops a sixteen-page scientific survey to determine a candidate’s viability for the position. But when he meets Rosie Jarman, a woman who in no way, shape, or form meets his specifications, Don may just realize that love isn’t as predictable as he thinks.
The protagonist of Graeme Simsion’s romantic comedy THE ROSIE PROJECT is the most refreshingly unique, honest, and hilarious character I have read in a long time. I don’t generally read romantic comedies, but this one stole my heart right from the first paragraph.
Tea to Pair: Swedish Söder Tea
This quintessentially Swedish blend is a match for this novel taking place in Stockholm in 1793. Watchman Mikel Cardell and lawyer Cecil Winge team up to identify and solve the mystery of a bizarrely mutilated body found in a bog. Their investigation will immerse them in a brutal world of guttersnipes and thieves, mercenaries and madams, as they peel back layer upon layer of the city’s labyrinthine society.
Tea to Pair: Chinese Pu’er Tea
This delicious Chinese tea plays an important role in this novel about tradition and mother-daughter bonds. Li-yan and her family are tea farmers who live in a remote mountain village. When a stranger arrives, the villagers are exposed to the modern world for the first time. Li-yan begins to reject the customs she’s been taught all her life, and when she has a child out of wedlock with a man her parents don’t approve of, she refuses to allow the baby to be killed, as tradition would dictate, and leaves her at an orphanage. As years pass, mother and child both search for meaning through the study of pu’er, the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.
Tea to Pair: Chai Tea
This warming, spiced tea is a perfect pairing for this moving novel about womanhood and the power of connection across cultures and borders. It follows three women: Smita, an untouchable who flees her small Indian village to find a better life for herself and her daughter; Giulia, a woman who works in her father’s wig shop in Sicily who discovers the company is in a dire financial position and must find a way to save her family’s livelihood; and Sarah, a successful Canadian lawyer and mother whose life is shattered by a cancer diagnosis.
Photo Credit: TanyaJoy/iStock