Tea & Book Pairing: Tumika’s Tea Blend

I’m revamping this blog to post allergy-friendly recipes and tea and book review pairings. Here’s the first pairing, based on a book I read at the beginning of this autumn’s reading binge.


tumika's tea blend

I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Some books heal by skirting the edges of pain, but this book dives right into it, bringing us healing through facing the truth. When a Man Loves a Woman by Tumika Cain answers the question a lot of us have from the outside looking in on situations of domestic violence. Many of the reviewers have already provided insights, but I would like to offer the feeling it inspired for me in the form of a tea recipe.

This tea, and this book, taste like catharsis.

When a Man Loves a Woman Tea
*makes one pot*
3 heaping tablespoons Harney & Sons Decaffinated Earl Grey tea leaves (or 3 teabags)
1/2 teaspoon ground organic cardamom
Steep in boiling water for 5 minutes. Serve with brown sugar cubes and maybe a little half and half.

The bite of cardamom echoes the sophisticated characters, and it gives a bite to the beautiful life that Alicia lives despite the troubles she endures. The blend of the two reminds us like the book that change does not happen alone.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a fictional account that brings them to the heart of both pain and healing.

Amazon Shopping List: When a Man Loves a Woman paperback, Harney & Sons Decaffinated Earl Grey teabags, Organic cardamom.

This post contains affiliate links.

Dollhouse tea service 

We threw a big tea party for some special events in our children’s lives this weekend. Since space was at a premium, I set out the sweeteners and spoons in one of our toy houses.  

vintage silver teaspoons,honey,and stevia packets are displayed in favorite family cups

Do you have a creative tea serving idea?

Low tea

We’ve started calling elevensies “low tea.”

When you’re part of a religious group that cycles through food restrictions like the Orthodox fasts, setting a pretty table can be a challenge. I’m so grateful during the Apostles fast that there’s so much fresh fruit.  

What’s your favorite food to serve to guests with dietary restrictions?

Prayer When You’re Busiest

Coming this November with Light Messages Publishers.
Coming this November with Light Messages Publishers.

After my dad died in 2012, there was a long period of going through the motions. What kept me sane and kept my family together was the daily need for food, drink, connection. I had loved tea with friends and family before then, but we solidified our family tea tradition that year, capping a summer of hot grief with the warmth of the tea table. I dug in a garden that summer, too, and the mints and herbs that grow there have come to be regulars at our teatime.

In Tea & Crumples, the protagonist Sienna is suffering under a terrible grief. But the people around her bridge the gap across her sorrow by reaching across the tea table. It’s not always our words that make sacred spaces. Sometimes it’s the daily rituals, the cleaning of cups, the laying of tables, the tucking in of chairs. Most of the time, holiness seeps in right between our weary fingers. Often, it leaves them warmer.

My hope for this novel is that it creates a safe space for love, for grief, for questions too big to ask all at once. It’s a spot of tea for the soul.

Has tea helped you through a hard time?

Tea Cabinet refresh 

I’ve been swamped lately with the birth of my 3 month old daughter (our fifth child), edits to the novel Tea and Crumples (Light Messages Publishers, November 2015), and preparing for this past weekend’s Read Local Book Festival. The house –how can I say this kindly? — suffered. Today I listened to an organizing podcast that reminded me to start de-cluttering with a small project that is my space. It also advised using one’s favorite things. So I did.  I purged teas I don’t like. I set aside the empty tea tins and packets of tea I’ll never drink. I’ll donate them to my church’s giant garage sale at the end of the summer. The new space allowed me to display necessary tea things in beautiful heirlooms.

  The Vaseline Glass bowl from my Grandmother-in-law holds tea sachets for travel. The silver plate basket and child cup are from my husband’s parents. One of his baby cups holds stevia packets.

  The pewter cup holds honey sleeves.

  I was able to fit the children’s tea set into the new arrangement, as well as the cup of silver teaspoons.

 My favorite “top shelf” teas hold a spot on the top shelf. Years ago, my tea cabinet was so tall that I kept them on the middle one, much to friends’ amusement. My favorite bit of whimsy is the squirrel card holder. He’s proclaiming the heart of my writing life: faith, tea, and love in journeys of healing. Now that the tea cabinet is organized, I can share more of all three with friends!

How about you? Do you have a tea cabinet? Link to your blog post or describe it in the comments below!

[For a recap of the Read Local festival, visit my main website: WritingLikeAMother.com|


Just heard the exciting news that my novel, Tea and Crumples, launches at the Main Branch of the Durham Library in downtown, Saturday, November 7! A tea party, a book party, in a library!

Tea in old children’s books

I love the past. I trained as a church historian in part because of that love. The past is full of vivid surprises if you can tolerate the dust. 

from Andersen’s Fairy Tales, New York: Grosset&Dunlap, 1945

My favorite old things (besides teaspoons) are children’s books. Maybe it’s the way they were published at such a high standard, meant to be cherished by cherished littles.   

The warm lignin burning away the pages in my hands brightens the saturated colors in the illustrations.  

I’m convinced that the books mean what they say, and they fully intend to shape my imagination when I open them. 

Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951

I especially like when they serve tea.

How about you? Do you like old books? What’s your favorite old thing?


Basil Tea

The children's tea set, laid out for five. Our fifth child is expected in February.
The children’s tea set, laid out for five. Our fifth child is expected in February.


When our newborn son Basil was in the NICU, tea became our lifeline. We discovered on the day after our twins were born that Basil, the youngest twin, had an upside down stomach, what’s called a gastric volvulus. His brother was cleared to go home with us, but Basil needed surgery. He was only two days old when the surgeon walked into the room where we were praying with our priest and announced an incredible finding. When the surgery team flipped my baby’s stomach back into place, they found that the flip had concealed a dangerous diaphragmatic hernia. In essence, our son only had the right half of his diaphragm. Miraculously, and to the surgeon’s amazement, Basil’s stomach had flipped in the womb to block the hole. Because of the volvulus, Basil’s lungs developed normally. He had to have his diaphragm reconstructed and a little Goretex patch added, but he would most likely be okay. His problem became a miracle that we received without asking. Our tiny baby was cut wide open, but he would heal.

Even with a hopeful prognosis and the help of my amazing sister who came to stay with us, Basil’s recovery time in the NICU was stressful for us. With three other children including Basil’s newborn twin at home, I could only visit my youngest child once a day. Fortunately, the hospital had a 24 hour café that served tea. Like the wires stretching out from Basil’s machines when we held him, tea reached across the gap between medicine and Mama, health and home. We would sip our courage from favorite mugs at home before we drove to see him. We would sip a salve for our sorrows from paper cups when we had to leave him.

We took our boy home on a freezing day, snuggling him and his twin together in a wrap against the cold. Our first order of business after settling the boys in their crib was to brew a pot of tea. The hospital stay behind us at last, we thawed to peaches under the influence of our favorite Keemun.

Our Basil is strong now, steeped in love and healing. We celebrate him week by week, making home the way we always have. We lay the tea table: plates and cups and spoons on a tray, slices of lemon, brown sugar cubes, an apt pitcher for cream. At center, with a cozy for when the babies’ sweet cries invariably interrupt us, a piping pot of tea. Each day that passes, we look forward to a future we were afraid to let ourselves imagine in the NICU. When I imagine it, my children gather at the tea table, one, two, three, four, five, to look at the day’s teacakes. They argue over who will pour and settle on their big sister. Basil’s toddler hands, pudgy and elegant, grasp his little porcelain cup as he waits his turn. He drinks his cream cooled tea and smiles. He knows he is home.