The truly curated reading experience comes with a beverage. Now that it’s finally hot tea season in the Northern Hemisphere, I’m ready to settle into my comfy reading chair with a nice mug of tea by my side. If I can make a suggestion, treat yourself to a huge, handmade mug from a potter who’s local to you. A mug for tea should feel right in your hands, in part because you’ve met the hands that made it. And because I love the finer details of curation, the tea in that mug needs to go with the book. Not in a very literal sense, though. We’re not matching countries of origin for teas and authors. It’s vibes that we’re curating here.
Preparing yourself a cup — or a whole pot! — of tea before you sit down to read is the perfect transitional experience. Tea making is a calming ritual, and for the best results, you can’t rush it. Making tea gives you a chance to clear your mind and set your intentions for the reading experience you’re about to embark on. While so many of us have to snatch our reading time out of the scraps in between other responsibilities, we all deserve a proper break. Whether you’re looking for caffeine pick-me-up or not, I’ve got teas for you. Likewise if you like flavored or unadulterated tea. And then you need to pick out your book. May I suggest one of these?
To Pair With Genmaicha
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Genmaicha is one of my favorite teas. The addition of the puffed rice give it a savory flavor reminiscent of popcorn. Blended with brisk green tea, the result is energizing and fun. It makes me want to read something cinematic. The Lost Apothecary is a novel with dual timelines, one contemporary and one historical, centering around an artifact found in a Thames mudlarking expedition. While it features a women-run apothecary that dispenses poisons to off bad men, it doesn’t take itself that seriously. I found it to be a rollicking tale.
To Pair With David’s Tea S’mores Chai
Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder by Valerie Burns
Whenever I make this tea within noseshot (is that a thing?) of a coworker, people always comment on how good it smells. Sweet and cinnamony and just a touch smoky thanks to the base of pu-erh tea, s’mores chai is the perfect tea to accompany a cozy mystery, especially one with culinary themes. This book follows Maddy Montgomery to her surprise inheritance in Michigan, where she’s now the proprietor of a bakery. When the mayor of the town ends up dead, and Maddy’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon, she needs to clear her name. And yes, the book has recipes.
To Pair With Milk Oolong Tea
The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson
Milk Oolong tea is a tea that’s a little bit surprising to me. Where does that creamy flavor come from? It’s also so supremely satisfying. A book I found both surprising and satisfying this year was The Violence. In it, there’s a post-COVID pandemic that causes intense flashes of violence in the infected. The story traces the pandemic’s effects on three generations of women in one family. It’s shockingly violent at times, unsurprisingly, but it lands someplace I found so completely captivating, even oddly heartwarming.
To Pair With Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea
The Roommate Risk by Talia Hibbert
Hot Cinnamon Spice tea is magical. It’s so intensely cinnamony, like drinking an atomic fireball candy. It’s one of my go-to winter brews. Naturally, something so sweet and invigorating needs to be paired with a romance. The Roommate Risk was the first Talia Hibbert book I read, and it holds such a special place in my heart. Jasmine moves in with her best friend Rahul after a plumbing disaster at her place. But Rahul has loved Jasmine all along, and that forced proximity trope gets me every time! Tension for daaaays.
To Pair With Sloane Fine Tea Merchants Heavenly Cream
Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith
When I want to feel fancy and elegant, I turn to my Heavenly Cream tea. It’s basically Earl Grey with the addition of some vanilla. And it tastes absolutely indulgent. A perfect book to pair with it is Half-Blown Rose. Vincent is a woman living her absolute best life in Paris following a betrayal by her husband. As she’s trying to rebuild her life, she meets a hot young guy named Loup and things get both complicated and delicious. This book has the leisurely pace of a stroll through Paris, where you take the time to notice every little thing. The book even curates the playlists for you in the text.
To Pair With Vanilla Rooibos Tea
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
For me, vanilla rooibos tea is pure comfort. It’s what I drink when I’m past the caffeinated time of the day, and I want something warm and a little sweet but not sugary. This is the tea to pair with your comfort read. For me, that’s The Blue Castle, the romance novel written by the author of Anne of Green Gables. It’s a marriage of convenience story between Valancy Stirling and Barney Snaith. Valancy’s trying to get away from overbearing family, and she lands with a mysterious and dreamy man whose secrets are slowly revealed. Pure delight.
To Pair With Turkish Apple Tea
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang
The first time I had Turkish Apple Tea was unforgettable. I was in Istanbul, shopping at a bazaar. I was standing outside a rug shop when the owner invited me in, pointed me to a seat, and sent someone to fetch me tea. Sipping the fragrant tea while being dazzled by his beautiful goods was like something out of a novel. For this tea, you want some spellbinding storytelling. So I’ve chosen this book, which weaves a mythological tale out of the story of two newly orphaned children finding a place for their deceased father’s remains to rest in the Gold Rush era West.
To Pair With Scottish Breakfast Tea
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
Of all the breakfast teas, Scottish might be the strongest. Sometimes I need a tea that a spoon can stand up in, one that can take a hearty dose of cream and sugar. If I’m staring down a tough day, I want fortification. Likewise, if I’m going to read something that’s really tough and potentially heartbreaking, a fortifying tea is a good pairing. Migrations is the story of a woman following Arctic terns on what might be their last migration. Climate change and extinction are really tough pills to swallow, so if I’m going to let this chilling content into my brain, I want some strong tea to help me through it.
To Pair With Moroccan Mint Tea
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
Moroccan mint tea is one I really adore iced, with a little rose syrup if you’ve got it. It’s so crisp and refreshing, the perfect drink to sit down to after you’ve worked up a sweat raking leaves. I like to pair it with a book that brings something really refreshing to a well-trodden story. The Hacienda follows a plot very similar to Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic classic Rebecca. A second wife arrives at a house haunted (metaphorically, or maybe literally) by the first wife, a haunting that needs to be exorcized. The Hacienda makes this story incredibly fresh and exciting by setting the tale in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, adding in a hot witchy priest — yes, a hot witchy priest!!! — and making the themes of colonialism incisive and explicit.
Please enjoy these refreshments. Then, find even more book and tea pairings, with mysteries. Stay warm and happy reading, friends.