Friday, October 23, 2015

A Moment with The Tea Stylist

It was the summer that she was 7 years old. She and her mother had gone to visit her great aunt who owned a rustic lodge on a river in a resort town. It was on that visit that the great aunt announced, "I think Linda is ready to try some tea." The china was brought out, the tea was steeped - it was loose leaf Ceylon. The clink of the china, the deep amber color of the tea, the heat rising from the cup. As she sat there included in this female triumvirate, she knew it was a special moment.

For Linda Gaylard, a.k.a. The Tea Stylist, this is just one of so many moments that piqued her interest in tea and lead her to where she is today: a known and respected Sports News Wardrobe Stylist-turned Tea Sommelier, Educator, and - now - Author.

Linda's Susie Cooper saucer c. 1930’s and cup c. 1950’s
filled with Darjeeling tea from Singell Estate
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of Linda's new book, The Tea Book (DK |Penguin Random House), and let's just say the world became a little brighter as a result.

Yes, there are many books available on the subject of tea. But what was most important to Linda as she researched and wrote and collaborated on this book (and what it most notable to me as a reader) is that it be accessible and accurate.

While enjoying a long distance cup of tea with Linda (she sipped a Darjeeling, I an Assam), she shared her vision of what The Tea Book should be: the resource she wished she had had when she was first exploring teas. And what a resource it is. Starting with a beautiful, simple, yet eloquent understanding of the tea plant and the variety of types of tea that come from that one plant, the book provides the practical instruction on how to store it, how to brew it, how to appreciate it.

One of my favorite pages in The Tea Book displays the "flavor wheel," which gives me better vocabulary on how to describe the spectrum of flavors and aromas I experience in different cups of tea. Hay or Bok Choy, for example, to more accurately describe something that is Vegetal. Butterscotch or Molasses to clarify a type of sweetness.

We discussed the layout of the book, because I found it to be so enjoyable and educational and easily consumable. You can lose yourself in the book for 2 minutes or 2 hours. The words, descriptions and observations are balanced equally with beautiful and complementary graphics and images. I asked her about her ability to boil such vast amounts of information down into bite sized pieces and she attributed it to her school years where the art of prĂ©cis was instilled (a brief summary of the main points and ideas of a piece of writing or speech). I joked that our penchant for Twitter probably didn't hurt either!

I asked what Linda enjoys most about her work with tea, and she shared that teaching is the most enjoyable. Whether it's hearing the questions that come out from a group of students or seeing the recognition light up someone's face when they 'get it,' it's very rewarding. And if she has time (which is very difficult to pin down recently) she truly enjoys the art of Tea Styling: putting tableaux together of a tea moment - something I can definitely appreciate! She has always had lots of tea ware and is always on the lookout for something unusual from a different era or place.

When I asked what she enjoyed most about writing her book, she admitted the recipes were a lot of fun, and I can see why! There are nearly 70 pages of recipes for tea-based beverages for every type of tea and tisane. Both alcoholic and alcohol-free, there's a new and enlightening tea recipe for every palate! I find it a wonderful way to bring tea to the modern era in a very relevant way. (And her husband was happy to be a guinea pig for many of the trial recipes - Lucky Duck!)

Our conversation could fill an entire book, but for now we must be content with a rather lengthy blog post. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to get to know more about this educator, wife, mother, and creative spirit. If there's a tea enthusiast in your life, know that you now have the perfect gift idea for them as the holidays approach:

THE TEA BOOK, by Linda Gaylard
A DK Publication

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