Friday, July 1, 2011

A Secret Ingredient Moment

With my current obsession mix of tea, mysteries, writing, and food, what better way to bring them all together than a visit from the author of The Teashop Girls, Laura Schaefer, who is getting ready for the release of her sequel, The Secret Ingredient! Here's a preview of what you'll find in her book:
It’s nearing the end of summer before ninth grade and Annie has been busy working as a barista at her grandmother's teashop, The Steeping Leaf.  In between serving up chai lattes and matcha frappes, Annie has gotten involved in a scone bakeoff with one of Louisa's tea suppliers. The winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to London for a tea vacation! Annie The competition is tough and sabatoge is in the air when suddenly Annie's food blog begins attracting mean comments. Then there's the whole matter of a stolen kiss with Zach Anderson in the Steeping Leaf stockroom. Could Annie's former sworn enemy become her current love interest? With the help of her two best friends, Genna and Zoe, can Annie come up with an awesome contest entry and sort out her love life before the end of the summer?

So, of course, my question for Laura was, "What is the Tea Shop Girl's ideal tea moment with friends?"

My ideal tea moment has several important ingredients. First, the tea has to be delicious...high quality loose leaf in a pretty pot, preferably steeped for 3-4 minutes. Some people who are new to tea under-steep. A lot of my favorite teas are the ones that have been blended with interesting flavors such as apricot, ginger, or even pink grapefruit. When you try herbal blends, the interesting varieties are almost endless. Next, I love having tea with cucumber sandwiches or scones. When I was writing The Secret Ingredient, I made scones many times. They're easier than you think to whip up, and they can be a perfect way to express your creativity as a baker. I started with a basic recipe and then let my mind wander...what would be good in a scone? In the book, you'll find combinations such as a sun-dried tomato, aged cheddar, bacon scone and a green apple toffee scone. I think having both sweet and savory varieties is ideal for a great tea moment.

The most important ingredient for tea is a good friend. Annie, my main character, makes it a point to meet with her two best friends Genna and Zoe every week for tea. As we get older, it gets more difficult to keep standing plans like this, but it makes life so rich. We have to make the effort. I'm in my thirties, and it's cool to notice how all my longtime friends are really making an effort to stay connected, even the ones who live in different states. Having a ritual like tea helps friends make the most out of their time together. I've also noticed that many of my friends (myself included) are really trying to live healthfully. Tea can be a part of that effort.

It occurs to me that warm weather is another great ingredient for a perfect tea moment. The Steeping Leaf, the fictional tea shop in my books, has a patio and on a summer day like today, it would be packed. Tea can been a great comfort when you have a chill, but it's also an ideal summertime beverage. I pretty much always have a pitcher of iced tea in my fridge. Summer sun, welcome to tea time!

To find out more about The Secret Ingredient, released this week, please visit

My thanks to Laura for sharing her characters' ideal tea moment with me! Congratulations on the release of your sequel to The Teashop Girls! Readers can order a copy of The Secret Ingredient right here!

Laura Schaefer