Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: The Teashop Girls

Book: The Teashop Girls
Author: Laura Schaefer
Genre: YA Novel
My Review: As refreshing as a freshly brewed cuppa tea! Thoroughly enjoyable for girls/women of all ages
My Rating: 5 Stars

A wonderful review of “The Teashop Girls” in Bethany’s blog made me want to pick the book up from my TBR pile immediately. If you haven’t read Bethany’s review of it, head over to her blog to see her review. It is a really fun post with a recipe, some pictures, etc and quite an enjoyable read!

“The Teashop Girls” is a YA novel revolving around Annie Green. Annie’s grandmother Louisa, who also lives in Wisconsin, has her own tea shop called “The Steeping Leaf”. The Steeping Leaf is a dear little shop built lovingly by her grandparents. The plants, the oversized mismatched comfortable furniture, the expensive French soap in the restrooms, etc gave The Steeping Leaf a very personal touch. But ever since Annie’s grandfather had passed away four years ago, The Steeping Leaf had slowly slipped into financial troubles. Though Louisa loved the shop, she didn’t have too much of a business head on her shoulders. Annie and her two best friends Genna and Zoe were the official “Teashop Girls” after having spent many delightful hours in The Steeping Leaf ever since they were old enough to come there. The Teashop Girls had their little handbook (which included the mandatory “set of rules”), a scrapbook of many interesting tidbits related to tea and a new item on their agenda – Save The Steeping Leaf! Along with the many attempts to save the little tea shop (some successful, some disastrous), the girls learn a lot about life, their friendship and themselves.

The Teashop Girls was an interesting book and one of the most cheerful YA novels I have ever read! There are wonderful illustrations throughout the book. The best part, however are the little inserts found through out the book. I loved them all – the little Zen stories told by Louisa, recipes for wonderful tea as well as tea accompaniments, vintage advertisements for tea from across the world, lists and more lists drafted by the compulsive list makers, etc.

Laura Schaeffer has done a wonderful job with the book. It is a fabulous read for both young girls as well as others who are just looking for a light read. If you are a tea lover, let me assure you, there’s so much in this book for you! If you are not a tea-lover, just read this book and it sure will turn you into one!

This book proved to be dear to me because of the nostalgic memories it brought to mind. I grew up in a hill station – Ooty. Tea grows well in high altitudes and the slopes of the hills give the soil the right amount of moisture necessary for tea growth. Ooty is filled with tea plantations and I grew up loving the smell and process of tea making. During my vacations, I spent hours on the tea plantations observing the tea pickers and their nimble fingers as they worked through the plants picking just the right leaves which would then be sent to factories to turn into the black coarse powder we are all familiar with.

The process of tea picking is a very interesting one. The women are trained to pick just “two leaves and the bud” at the tip of every shoot. This is the most tender part of the tea plant and has the most flavor.  The tea bushes are pruned and maintained at waist level to facilitate rapid picking of the leaves. During the tea picking season, you can find hordes of women with colorful baskets hanging on their backs on every slope in Ooty. They’d sing and talk as their hands rapidly worked through the tea bushes. I’ve tried my hand at tea picking and by the time I would meticulously pick out just “two leaves and a bud” from 3 to 4 shoots, the regular tea pickers would have picked at least fifty!

The leaves that are picked by these women are then transported to tea factories not too far away (because the leaves have to be fresh when ground). In these factories, the green tender leaves are turned into the coarse black powder that we are all familiar with. I loved visiting the tea factories when I was a kid. The smell of fresh tea was always in the air and at the end, I was offered freshly made lemon tea prepared with the highest grade of tea leaves, fresh lemon and some honey. I loved that hot lemon tea and no tea that I have ever had after that comes close to the flavor of that tea!

I guess you can understand now why I love tea so much and why I loved this book!! Thanks to Laura Schaefer for sending me a review copy of this book.
Have you read “The Teashop Girls”? What did you think of it?


bermudaonion said...

What a great post. Thanks for telling us about your childhood and about the tea-picking process. I really want to read this book.

Julie P. said...

My daughter and I loved this book too! I can't rave enough about it! I love your review, especially all the fascinating things about your childhood!

violetcrush said...

I have read so much about this book, I'll have to add it to my wishlist.

I have been to Ooty twice, once with my parents and once with friends, love the place. You were so fortunate to grow up with so much beauty around.

bethany said...

Great review!! I love that you included information about tea growing and what it means to you. That is so perfect for this post.

Thanks for linking to me too, you are very sweet.

OH, and it seems the chatty visitors is counting things right! I am very excited I knew I had commented much more than, what did it say? 16 times? Did you get it fixed or did it fix itself?

Excellent review!

Ramya said...

Ebermudaonion - thanks!do you like tea? you'll love this book if you do!

@julie - thanks! I have already recommended it to every mother who has a girl old enough to read this book!:)

@violet- well, it had both its advantages and disadvantages.. It was beautiful but could definitely get lonely after a point..

@bethany - i think it is the book! it brought back such wonderful memories that I just HAD to write about it! and yes.. i had to change my commentator counter because the old one was soo wrong. It kept waiting for it to get better but it never did and i had to get it changed. hopefully, this one is right!:)

Aarthi said...

Looks like a nice book. I will plan to add it to my list of TBR.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I love lemon tea but I'm sure it's nothing like what you have experienced! Maybe someday I'll get lucky . . .
Glad to know you like this book. It sounds so sweet; I intend to get a copy and save it for when my niece is a little older (of course, I'll read it first!)

S. Krishna said...

Wow, amazing review! I loved hearing about the childhood memories it evoked - I've never been to Ooty, but I might have to make a trip there next time I'm in India.

Dar said...

This book sounds delightful. I loved hearing about your memories of the tea making process. I'd love to be a part of all that and try picking tea leaves. I'd be in heaven with the smell-I just love the smell of tea. Wonderful post Ramya.