Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Way of Tea and Justice

The Way of Tea and Justice:  Rescuing the World's Favorite Beverage from its Violent History
Author:  Becca Stevens
Publisher: Jericho Books
Review written by Nelle Howard (Resource Center Director)
for The Presbytery of West Virginia 

Prepare a cup of tea. Commit an act of justice.

How are the two related?  What does tea have to do with being just?
If you know much about the history of the world you have to know a little something about the history of tea and then you must realize that the history of tea includes one unjust act after another.

The history of injustice became global with political and corporate espionage in 1848. That is when Robert Fortune disguised himself as a Mandarine in order to gain access to a Chinese tea production facility.  From there tea made its way to several British colonies where forced labor produced most of the tea that the world drank.To feed our tea addiction today most tea plantations continue to over-work and under-pay tea producers. 
When we drink a cup of tea we are connected to the worker who picked and processed the leaves. We are connected to the plantation owner who decides how to hire and treat workers and we are connected to the countless men and women who have put on kettle of water to heat and who, then, wait. The author of Tea and Justice wants us to consider these connections and how much better that tea may taste if it includes a significant amount of care and justness.  

Green tea was first harvested for drinking 3500 years ago, followed a 1000 years later by the cured product we know as black tea.  This black tea is the most common tea for Europeans and Americans and is what you probably use to make your ice tea.

In Africa a woman puts a heavy pot onto a hotplate burner to heat water for her afternoon drink.  At the same time a woman in West Virginia puts a copper teapot on her electric stovetop.  Together they wait. . .
Through their waiting they are connected to the thousands of others who, through the centuries, have waited. 

Our waiting connects us to the woman who hunches over a small fire in a circle of stones; it connects us to the soldier, rubbing his cold hands together as he watches his breath and his water slowly begins to bubble. Each of us waits with the same anticipation, the same longing for something good.

According to horticulturists there is only 1 specie of tea plant in the world, Camilla Sinensis.  Like us, all tea is connected by heritage.  We are all from the same source but we each have unique attributes like the aromas and flavors of various types of tea and, much like tea leaves, we are formed through our individual experiences - where we grow, what is around us, what type of nourishment we receive.

Through the pages of  Tea and Justice Becca Stevens reminds us of these important connections and how the intentional act of choosing, brewing and savoring a cup of tea can be an act of justice. 

Becca Stevens is an Episcopal Priest who founded Magdalene, residential communities of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. She also founded Thistle Farms in Tennessee a place employing about  50 women and graduates. Thistle Farms provides employment and safety to the women who live and work there.  

Recently, Thistle Farms has opened the Thistle Stop Café. a place to slow down, have a cup of justly produced tea and perhaps tell your story. 
Each tea cup used in the cafe comes with its own story, some of which are written, framed and hung on the walls of the café. 

Ms Stevens sees a cup of tea as an analogy for life, 
a chance for friendship and conversation or contemplation 
and renewal. 

So put a kettle on . . . have your cup ready . . . and connect. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Prayer for Owen Meany

Author:  John Irving,
Published by: Ballintine Books, 2009
Reviewed by: Nellie

    From his very first sentence John Irving pulled me into A Prayer for Owen Meany.  Irving, himself says of this sentence, "I may write a better first sentence to a novel than that of A Prayer for Owen Meany, but I doubt it."  This is a story about self-determination or lack of it.  It is about Destiny and about making things happen for yourself.  It is about being prepared for your destiny when it appears.  
   Yes, this novel is about those things and more.  It is about the unforgettable character Owen Meany who gets our attention from his very first utterance. Owen Meany, a tiny boy who looses control and rages when his Sunday School class lifts him up over their heads causing his teacher to exclaim, ". . . Owen Meany. . . You get down from there." (What was she thinking?) 
   John Irving skillfully introduces us to the characters of Gravesend New Hampshire. Every one of them have a purpose to the story.  Each character and many of their names are important to the story.  It wouldn't be the same without any one of them.  How people react to Owen Meany says much about their character and determines much about how their lives turn out.  
   While the story is about Owen Meany, destiny, God and the people they encounter, it is incidently a story about the times - a story about the 60's and its aftermath. It is a story about America and its own destiny.  
   Owen Meany, a child and a man comfortable with the hardness of granite had a distinctive voice could not be ignored or forgotten.  Irving's voice, in this novel is also not easily forgotten.  He has made me laugh with stories that still make me smile and he has made me question what I know about life and about what is important.  A Prayer for Owen Meany is not a story that happens every day.  It is as unique as is Owen himself, as unique as every character of Gravesend and as unique as each of us are as we search out and meet our own destiny. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


 Author:  John Barlow

Hope Road , a mystery is reviewed by Nan, here at this link
Letters From a Hill Farm
This is Nan's very nice blog that covers a range of topics.  Today's is a book review with photographs from the area written about in Hope Road
By-the-way, the book is only $2.99 today at Amazon.  I haven't read it but Nan has convinced me to do so.  Click on the link above to buy it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Warmth of Other Suns

Author: Isabel Wilkerson
Published by Vintage Books 2011
Reviewed by Nellie

     Starting with the story of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, The Warmth of Other Suns  takes us on a journey that began in 1915 when the first African Americans began to leave The South for cities in the North. As descendants of American slaves, African Americans found many reasons to leave their home for unknown places. They were usually treated poorly, underpaid, undereducated and otherwise mistreated by their whiter neighbors.
     Isabel Wilkerson lovingly tells the story of Ida Mae, Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster and George Swanson Starling as they face hardships in The South and ultimately decide to move north into a world unknown.  Their stories cover the entire scope of The Great Migration from 1915 and continued to 1965 and include great and not-so-great milestones in the history of The United States of America, the "land of the free, home of the brave."
   This is a long book - more than 500 pages - but it is an easy read of a very hard subject.  I considered myself pretty knowledgable of  problems between African Americans and others in America, but what I knew was just the beginning.  in The Warmth of Other Suns, Wilkerson leaves out little but she does so with a warmth and care that makes you care about the characters both their good and less attractive characteristics. She covers a subject that could be depressing but isn't because she shows us the joy and strength of  our human spirit.
     I read this book as quickly as a work of fiction.  It flows freely between time periods but does so in a way that made me glad to travel.  
    I recommend it for people who are interested in learning a part of history seldom written about or people who just like a good story.  A Warmth of Other Suns has several of them.