Put the kettle on, please…

Shona, to put it poetically “all things tea remind me of thee”;  when I saw this picture from Sandy’s vacation at  Sequoia national Park Just last week I knew I had to get a copy for you.  I told her this is perfect postcard for you. She was gracious enough to indulge me. Sandy sends her regards.
With that I’ll have a cuppa, pass the biscotti, please. Anitra


Tea and chats with writers at Carriage Manor

Teatime with writers at the Carriage Manor Writers group.
Tea and chats with the writers group at Carriage Manor.
Peggy Hassinger, my dear friend who has shared with me many journeys.
Peggy Hassinger, my tea-drinking buddy  from many, many teatimes ago.

On March 22nd, I was invited by Peg Hassinger, a dear friend, to speak at the Carriage Manor Writers Group in Mesa, Arizona. The group pitched in with a surprise tea party to honor my visit and a surprise indeed it was! I was deeply touched (I cry easily these days if you must know!) with all the thought and planning that had gone into creating such a delightful event. There’s more about that in Marlys Jensens’s writeup below.

The Carriage Manor Writers Group meets every Friday. Many members are snowbirds so the group is more active in the cooler months. Members pick a special topic to write about every week and on the day of my visit the topic was (you guessed it) TEA of course! I was fascinated by the variety of genres and different viewpoints shared on the same subject. The format is open so we had a nice smattering of short stories, essays and poems and some very educative, funny and soul-stirring writing. When it came to my turn, I shared about my writing journey and Assam Tea. Here is  lovely recap of the event by Marlys Jenson, one of the writers in the  group. I am reprinting it with her permission. Thanks Marlys!


By Marlys Jensen – March 28, 2013

There are always surprises as we travel along life’s pathway, some more pleasant than others.  One such pleasing experience happened last Friday at the Writers Class.   Coming to class, all members were looking forward to the usual good time sharing their personally penned stories about “Tea”.  Also, the anticipation of being in the company of a soon to be published author was high on our bucket list.

At 10:00 a.m. class would be in session. When walking through the door the atmosphere was intoxicating. Looking around the room was like being in another time and place.  The tables were decorated eloquently.   Flowers and a silver tea service flanked the head table.  At each place, a setting ready for a party.   On a doily, a fine bone china plate, saucer, and tea-cup were placed ever so perfectly. Antique cloth napkins added a nice touch. The side tables displaying colorful tea pots looked beautiful.  Writer’s member and party giver, Gretchen, and party lover, Lucy, were responsible for the festive decorations.

Gretchen was in charge of the tea.   We got to choose a tea flavor and hot water was added to our cups, thus the brewing began. A wonderful aroma filled the air. Dainty treats were provided by our leader and tea lover, Peg. It was joyful time, with another one of our leaders, Mary Lynn, recovering from a broken pelvis, joining the group.

Yet another pleasant surprise was the entrance of a beautiful Indian Lady, who now resides in Arizona.  Peg introduced her as Shona Patel, a dear friend of hers.  They have enjoyed many tea parties together during their friendship. We were all captivated to hear the story of her life.  She had grown up on a Tea plantation in India.  Her father was appointed the first Indian manager of a tea farm, a fortunate event for the family.   She had a good life and learned much about the harvesting and processing of tea during her growing up years.

She loved writing and eventually was able to enroll in a writer’s class by a coveted professor at Scottsdale Community College. She learned much in his class about getting a manuscript ready for publishing.  She started the process. She hired an agent and was fortunate to be accepted by a publishing company.  Her book “Teatime for the Firefly” will be out in October, 2013.  It is a novel in which she was able to weave into the story many facts about tea and the plantations where it was processed. We are anticipating the book’s sale.

Shona is a lovely young lady, with many talents, and an outgoing personality.  It was a fantastic class.   I am sure all of the Writers feel the same as I….. A BIG thank-you is due to all who had a part in this most delightful time.    It exceeded all expectations!  Thanks again.

More about Marlys Jenson and the Carriage Manor Writers Group: My husband and I are retired and spend our winters in Carriage Manor Resort in Mesa, Arizona. It was there I was encouraged to join the Writers’ Group. I nervously started attending four years ago. The class has challenging topics and activities. It brought me to another level in writing. We have outstanding leaders. Here we learn to express ourselves through writing, reading, sharing, etc. When reading our stories during class time, we laugh and cry together; by this interaction we develop true friendships. I am looking forward to reading Shona Patel’s Book Tea Time for the Firefly”. Her excellent writing ability and vibrant personality will be reflected in the book, I am sure.


Sharing tea with strangers

Back in India, everybody drops by for tea. And “everybody” means neighbors, friends, the trash collector, the postman, the drivers who have driven your visitors over and even the second cousin of your maid. Tea-making is a full-time job. The doorbell rings, the kettle sings and tea cups tinkle all day long. This cheeriness is aptly described by Victorian novelist George Gissing who wrote “the mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose”.

My three favorite tea cookies sit right next to my electric kettle. From left to right : homemade biscotti (click here for my recipe) Tea Toast Biscuits and good old Marie Biscuits – a tea-dunking favorite.

There was no happy repose when I first came to America. I was unnerved by the silence of our big house. Every small noise got amplified: the hum of the air-conditioner, the plaintive beep of the microwave warming my lunch plate and the swish of a car driving past. To kill time, I watched men and women with missing teeth claw one another on Jerry Springer. When I flipped channels it was either somebody talking about how they  lost weight or a man with an English accent trying to sell you knives. Nobody rang the doorbell. No neighbors dropped by for tea. I offered tea to the UPS man but he said “no thanks” and rushed off. I made a cup of tea and put out two Marie biscuits for carpet cleaning guy but he left without touching it.

Once I walked all the way to the Fry’s grocery story just to marvel at the ginormous red onions (I spent plenty of time to admiring onions and potatoes in grocery stores back then) when a pretty girl in a sunflower dress complimented me on my smile.  She was surprised when I invited her home for tea. She showed up a few days later with a fat docket full of pie-charts and told me told I could go on a  Caribbean cruise and even drive a pink Cadillac just by talking to people and giving away free lipstick.

Another day I was watching Judge Wapner of People’s Court chew out a sleazy car dealer for selling a fat lady a bum Oldsmobile when I heard a knock on the door. Outside stood three very well dressed people. The men wore suits and the lady’s hair was all nicely curled. Thinking they were  neighbors I invited them in for tea. They asked me how I liked America. I said I liked it just fine and added, a little wistfully perhaps, that it sure got lonely sometimes. They perked up when they heard that and said I would make the most wonderful friends if I visited their church. When I told my hubby that he said they were trying to recruit me and suggested I not invite strangers into the house in the future.

“The first time you share tea you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family…” (Balti saying: Three Cups of Tea)

But soon a stranger invited me

Jyo – one of my first friends in America who invited me home for tea. Her children are grown now. The older one is going off to college!

I was taking a little walk down my street when this pretty Indian girl with a baby on her hip called out to me in a sing-song voice ”Hi! Want to have some tea?” This was music to my ears and I was once again reminded of our warm Indian hospitality. The girl’s name was Jyotsna. She made masala chai and we chatted. And here we are seventeen years later, still the best of friends.

I have no misgivings inviting people home for tea. I learned not all folks are out to sell you something or recruit you. There are  kindred spirits who, like me, just want an old-fashioned gab and a bit of soul-connect over a cuppa. I have vowed never to sully that sacredness by having a hidden agenda. I can meet people at a Starbucks to talk about business, or colleagues to catch up over lunch but when I invite someone home for tea I am attentive and honored. All I want to do is bat the breeze and enjoy a little downtime. So let’s share a cuppa, shall we?  And cheers to you my dear friends!

Ah morning tea!
How to make a perfect cuppa
Lorna’s Blog about Scottish Tearooms 
Shona Patel’s debut novel Teatime for the Firefly is a love story set in a tea plantation in Assam. You can read more about it HERE.  She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.