Satiating, stimulating, social, sweet, and swirling are some of the words Katherine Chantal uses to alliterate her love of tea in her new book of poems, A Tea Poet’s Journey.
Written over a period of almost 2 years, the 40 page 5 x 7 ½ inch book features 27 poems and the art of Floyd artist Liz Stucki. From a poem about a playful mad hatter at a tea party to one about a tea blend named for the ancient East Asian Goddess Kuan Yin, the collection ranges from playful to reverent.
“I had written 3 – 4 poems about tea before I realized I could do a collection. Then, I very earnestly, over a few months of time, wrote the body of the book. I sat down each day and chose a different kind of tea and teaware. I sat with the tea, meditated on each cup to see what it evoked,” Chantal said.
Best known locally as an herbalist and the mother of five sons, Chantal has been writing on and off since her first published piece about the homebirth of her first-born twins appeared in Mothering magazine in 1977. Later, she penned a health column for The Floyd Press, and more recently her poetry and prose have appeared in Floyd County Moonshine, a literary magazine based in Floyd.
Chantal was first introduced to tea drinking, not through her Irish ancestry as might be expected, but from her Venezuelan Uncle from Brooklyn, New York. Uncle George DeSola thought using a tea bag, rather than loose leaves, was “an abomination,” Chantal describes in a poem titled From Whence Came my Love of Tea.
Tea and poetry go together like milk and honey, as these words from Chantal’s The Wonders of Pu-er attest “… We shall experience a most delicious time … of words mingled with savoring … deep brown, earthy elixir … Wisdom and aging, blending quite sagely … Hidden gold in every cup.” In Not the Last Tea Poem, Chantal writes “Poetry and tea … different branches … same tree.” Throughout the book she refers to tea endearingly by its name, Camilla Sinensis.
Growing up in a coffee drinking household, it took time for Chantal’s love of tea to brew, but her recent dedication to the versatile beverage has likely surpassed that of her uncle’s. Chantal, who has an extensive collection of tea pots and tea cups, has been hosting tea parties for friends for many years, complete with crumpets and cream, scones and jellies, and shared readings of poetry and prose. “It’s one of the fun things I do. It brings the little girls out in us but also speaks to the maturity of good conversation,” she said.
Also in the poem titled The Wonders of Pu-er is a description of a dark brick of tea with artistic scroll designs that Chantal took a hammer and chisel to in order to shave off enough to brew a pot of tea for her tea party guests. The poem reveals that in the past blocks of tea were used as currency, being traded for other goods.
“I love the essence of tea, how it fills my body, mind, and spirit. I love its history, geography and intrigue,” Chantal said,” explaining that black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong all come from the same plant but each varies depending on where it was grown, what time of year it was picked, how it was oxidized and prepared. “China tea is different than tea from India tea,” she noted.
Each poem in the series, like a good cup of tea, urges the reader to slow down, to sip and savor every nuance and flavor. Jasmine Journey, Dancing with Darjeeling, Ceylon Comfort, Ode to Earl Grey, Breakfast with the Scotts, and Tea in Spain are some of the titles included in the mix.
The book is dedicated to Chantal’s 3 grandchildren, whom she hopes to “share many tea parties” with. To her readers, she invites them in the book’s introduction to, “Put on the kettle. Brew your favorite. I invite you to my tea party, dear reader, friend in tea.” ~ Colleen Redman
Post notes: Katherine’s book is available in Floyd at The Harvest Moon Food Store and noteBooks. You can order a copy from her directly for $12 at 144 Zephyr Drive SE, Floyd Virginia, 24091. Katherine will be doing book signings, readings, and sharing tea at the following times and locations: Saturday, August 14 from 11:00 to 1:00 at the Harvest Moon Food Store in Floyd; Friday, August 27 at 7:00 p.m. with Chelsea and Bill Adams at Coffee Buy the Book in Pulaski; Saturday, September 4 from 10 – 12:00 at noteBooks in Floyd; Friday, September 17 at 7:00 p.m. with Chelsea and Bill Adams and readings from Floyd Writer’s Circle members at Lucy Monroe’s Coffeehouse Christiansburg. Katherine also facilitates rite of passage ceremonies. Visit her webpage HERE.