bookshops, tea

Alice cupcakes by Natalie Bode

One of the things I can’t wait to do is host tea parties at Biblio, whether for children or adults. When I first conceived Biblio in my head, my idea was that each room would have a literary theme, and the kids’ room was Alice in Wonderland (sci-fi and fantasy was a hobbit room or somewhere in Middle Earth. I may still do this). I was on the prowl after that for anything literary that I could decorate with or use. Shortly after I wrote my ideas, I came across the Alice in Wonderland Cardew tea set in Winners. At least, part of it, anyway.

I was so excited I bought the 6-cup tea pot, the cookie tray and another different tray, the creamer and sugar pot, and a 2-cup tea pot, which I later gave to my sister. I imagine serving tea from this set to the children celebrating a birthday at my shop or having a tea party with friends. The party-goers will sip tea and bite into decadent ridiculous-looking cupcakes, and I or one of my staff will read a good story aloud—perhaps the mad tea party chapter from Alice? Maybe they’ll all even get a literary goody bag before they go!

And now Chapters and Indigo are selling the very same Alice in Wonderland tea sets, with cups as well, in anticipation of Tim Burton’s exciting Alice in Wonderland film. I don’t prefer the mugs they sell so I went online to find the kind of teacups and saucers I want, and I found them. Three different ones I like, actually. As soon as possible, I’ll nab as many sets as I can.

Design Monkey's Alice

On top of the tea parties families can privately book, I’ve thought of having an open one, as well. For this, the window display will showcase different copies of Alice in Wonderland (I already have three editions! Read about the history of this book here) and perhaps a crazy-looking marzipan cake and Alice figures, and playing cards strewn about, and invitations too.

On purpose, I have never used my Alice in Wonderland tea set myself, not in the 3 years I’ve had it. It’s for Biblio only. Every day I glance at it sitting on display in the kitchen and I have to smile. I can’t wait to set that very important date for Biblio’s grand opening. Perhaps I’ll have Alice in Wonderland invitations, entreating you not to be late!

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books, tea

Almost every day there’s either a grand or small thing to discourage me from opening Biblio or from thinking the idea of books and tea will work.

Putting aside the relentless news articles announcing the death of yet another indie bookshop, take this, for instance:

I’m sitting in the living room, busy editing an article for CJDS. Beside me are not one but two sidetables on which very attractive books lie. A small shift in position and my ginger lemon tea goes flying across all four books. Two I rescue; they are happily unharmed. But my clothbound copy of The Hobbit and my oh so beautiful Bedside Book of Birds are hit on their bottom edges. No amount of dabbing will help. They rest now on floor vents, where the heat from our furnace was rising but seems to have suddenly ceased as soon as I placed the books there. Already, the Bedside Book is warping.

I want to weep. I admit to having spilled tea on manuscripts I’ve been proofing before. If the spill is major, I reprint and reproof the pages. If only a drop or two or a minor smudge, I write a little “enjoying chai rooibos tea! Sorry!” note with a smiley face. In this case, putting my tea on the sidetable, which is not, of course, unheard of, is obviously asking for trouble if I’m going to decorate those tables with books as well. Going further, perhaps drinks and books in Biblio is a stupid idea! I don’t want to spend my time marking down beautiful books because of damage.

Sigh. Will I have to enforce some rule that customers can’t sip tea and peruse a book at the same time just in case? That would be totally counter to the idea of Biblio!!

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Tea Forté's Sontu teapot

So far I’ve based the majority of my posts on books, but I want to share with you the other half of my reading experience—that good cup of tea. I’m picky about what I drink my tea in and what kind of tea it is so I’m always on the lookout for the perfect cup, always trying different brands for the best-tasting tea. Loose tea is the best for taste, and bone china cups probably can’t be beat.

Tea Forté is the most beautiful purveyor of tea and tea things I’ve come across so far, and I’ve been browsing tea sites and stores for a long time. While in North Yorkshire I visited a few tea shops, even Betty’s, yet I still didn’t come across anything that really conveyed to me the essence of what I value in the tea experience.

My new Kati loose tea cup

I typically don’t favour Victorian or floral items or gold or silver paint or certain patterns, so many English sets (not all) are not my style (though English Tea, as in the tea time and how they spend it, is something I truly enjoy).

Of course, I greatly appreciate what I consider lovely things, things that make me feel cultured and good and reverent and most of all very happy. I know this sounds like a sort of ad, but it’s really not; I just want to share this store with you. Tea Forté has a stunning website and, in my opinion, an even more appealing (though small) collection of teapots and cups and accessories, plus the most close-your-eyes-and-sigh delicious organic tea. Taylor’s of Harrogate (loose) is excellent, and there are other brands I consider favourites, like Northern Delights (especially Cloudberry) and Yorkshire Tea (by Taylor’s), and Yogi, and the Metropolitan Tea Company (especially their honeybush). Tea Forté’s tea is a new one to add to the list. I will of course keep trying new brands.

I had bookmarked Tea Forté’s site a while ago as a possible vendor for Biblio and then found some of their items in Chapters this weekend (even though the store is not listed as a carrier). Yesterday, I enjoyed (not quite a good enough word for how happy I felt) my new Kati loose tea cup with a few of the samples they gave in the box that housed the cup—chamomile citron, earl grey, and green tango.

I dislike rosehip and hibiscus based teas, which is what the chamomile was, but to my surprise, brewed properly it tasted so wonderful I finished the entire cup. It even looked lovely, let alone the taste. And of course, it thus enhanced my reading experience.

I want everything in Biblio, as part of the Biblio experience, to be perfect, carefully and thoughtfully chosen or executed, and I want to include products that the vendors themselves take great pride in. I’m happy to say I’ve discovered a few that match the description.

Beautiful books and excellent tea: a marriage made in heaven—and Biblio.

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