Pairing books with tea (Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte)

On my current TBR shelf (to be read soonest as I’m obsessed with Josephine) is Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams. The book chronicles Josephine’s humble beginnings, her rise and her downfall.

Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier’s incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.
 
Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed during the Reign of Terror—then barely escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death experience only fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her  determination to find a man who could finance and sustain her. Though no classic beauty, she quickly developed a reputation as one of the most desirable women on the continent.
 
In 1795, she met Napoleon. The attraction was mutual, immediate, and intense. Theirs was an often-tumultuous union, roiled by their pursuit of other lovers but intensely focused on power and success. Josephine was Napoleon’s perfect consort and the object of national fascination. Together they conquered Europe. Their extravagance was unprecedented, even by the standards of Versailles. But she could not produce an heir. Sexual obsession brought them together, but cold biological truth tore them apart.
 
Gripping in its immediacy, captivating in its detail, Ambition and Desire is a true tale of desire, heartbreak, and revolutionary turmoil, engagingly written by one of England’s most praised young historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this alluring and complex woman will finally elevate Josephine Bonaparte to the historical prominence she deserves.

When it came time for me to find a tea to pair with this biographical book, I didn’t hesitate in choosing a tea named for an earlier queen, Thé de Marie-Antoinette (Marie-Antoinette tea). It makes for a perfect pairing because the French tea contains rose petals; Josephine cultivated rare roses at her home, Château de Malmaison. I think this tea is a nice homage to Josephine, even if it is named after an earlier queen.

What do we think of this tea pairing? Also, have you read Ambition and Desire or other books about Josephine?

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (How to Read a Dress)

It’s been a minute since we’ve had a book and tea pairing so let’s have another one, shall we? Today’s book is How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards.

How to Read a Dress is a fashion history book. It’s a little on the academic site; the author is a lecturer at a university. I’d recommend this book for beginners, so if you have an advanced degree in fashion history or are Michael Kors this book may be too rudimentary for you. But it’s incredibly fun to read. The book has overviews of the eras between the 16th and the 20th century. There are illustrations and photographs galore; a fashion history lover’s dream of a book.

So, which tea shall we have while reading How to Read a Dress? Since fashion was invented in France, we should have a French tea. Specifically Mariage Frères French Breakfast Tea. It’s an elegant black blend that makes for a beautiful cup of tea in the mornings. What do you think?

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Tea with Mr. Rochester)

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I’ve been making an effort to read more short stories. They pack a punch in just a few short pages. I’m left thinking and rethinking about the plot for days after I finish the story. Tea with Mr. Rochester is one such short story collection.

When I think of Mr. Rochester, I think of the character from Jane Eyre. If that’s who you thought of too, then you can probably guess the common theme of each story in this collection: love. Most of the stories don’t necessarily end happily. Or maybe they do, depending on your view. The beauty of a short story is that it doesn’t tell you how or what to think. You are left thinking and analyzing for days afterwards.

Take for example, the sixth story in this collection, Spade Man from over the Water. It takes place inside the drawing room of a married woman, Mrs. Penny, who is entertaining her new neighbor. The new neighbor, Mrs. Asher, hopes she can become good friends with Mrs. Penny. All we know at this point is that Mrs. Penny has a husband who travels often. He seems to never be in the picture. Her husband discourages Mrs. Penny from having friends, but she yearns for the friendship of women. Mrs. Asher and her children move into the cottage near Mrs. Penny. She too has a husband who travels a lot. When Mrs. Asher sees a picture of Mrs. Penny’s husband she grows quiet and mysterious. They end the evening proclaiming they will become good friends. But that never happens, much to the disappointment of Mrs. Penny. The cottage is emptied virtually overnight. Mrs. Asher and her children disappear, never to be heard of again.

This ending left me stumped. The only solution that I can come up with is that Mrs. Penny’s husband leads a double life with Mrs. Asher. This might be why Mrs. Asher disappears after seeing the photograph of Mrs. Penny’s husband.

For this short story collection, I’d pair Fortnum’s Fortmason tea. The tea is black, strong and heavily infused with orange blossoms. You’ll need a strong tea to get through some of these (very excellent, some sweet, some bizarre) short stories.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (All The Time In The World)

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All The Time In The World by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins is inspired by the medieval book of hours. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, a book of hours is a “devotional book widely popular in the later Middle Ages. The book of hours began to appear in the 13th century, containing prayers to be said at the canonical hours in honour of the Virgin Mary. The growing demand for smaller such books for family and individual use created a prayerbook style enormously popular among the wealthy. The demand for the books was crucial to the development of Gothic illumination. These lavishly decorated texts, of small dimensions, varied in content according to their patrons’ desires.

All The Time In The World, complete with whimsical drawings and filled with fascinating anecdotes and witty articles, is meant for reflection and leisurely enjoyment. The entries are to be read slowly, with the passing seasons.

The more than seventy-five articles are cleverly divided by the hour of the day. The first article (6:00 AM) is about the circus and the last article  (5:00 AM) is about the songbirds waking you up at dawn. Fitting.

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I’d pair an herbal tea with this book. Particularly Twinings Buttermint. Sipping a nice, steaming cup of herbal tea is perfect while leisurely reading the entries.

So let me ask you this, which drink would you pair with your current read?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #34 (Tea edition)

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“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Today’s reading links are dedicated to all things tea because a good cup of tea is one of life’s most wonderful pleasures.

Grab a cup of tea (or coffee) and enjoy some light reading.

Sparkling tea, anyone?

A lovely tea caddy from 1810.

How to stay in business for 300 years and stay relevant, according to Fortnums.

The best afternoon tea in London, according to British Vogue.

The history of afternoon tea. And another article on the history of afternoon tea by Twinings, with lots of wonderful illustrations and photography.

Historian Lucy Worsley wrote a cookbook about Afternoon Tea, Tea Fit for a Queen. I own it and have made several of the sandwich recipes.

I’m not sure this article is credible, but it’s fun to read: How does Queen Elizabeth take her tea?

This Tea For One pot by Royal Albert is my latest acquisition and it is perfection.

Tea Advent Calendars.

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Mariage Frères in Tokyo.

Pairing books with tea.

Earl Grey Tea scented candle.

All about Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford (the lady who gave us Afternoon Tea).

Paris Tea Favorites.

xoxo, Jane

Let’s talk about tea!

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(c) Fortnum & Mason

I’ve talked about Fortnum & Mason before here and here. But today I want to talk about my favorite Fortnum’s tea. 

The English-speaking world divides roughly into two main camps – one camp swears by tea, the other coffee. Occasionally, each camp swears at the other. At Fortnum’s we maintain a strict neutrality. Here harmony reigns – for here you will find the best of both worlds.

Fortnum’s The Cook Book

My favorite Fortnum’s tea (and probably favorite tea in general) is Countess Grey. It’s delicious, citrusy and airy. It goes well with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of milk.

I’m a huge tea snob and will not drink tea if the water is not boiled. I’ve learned to stay away from tea in most American restaurants because they use hot water instead of water that’s boiled. Yes, I can tell the difference. I told you I was a tea snob.

Fortnum & Mason instructions: For every cup you wish to make, add a rounded teaspoon of leaves to your pot. Add freshly-boiled water, brew for 3-5 minutes, place your strainer over your cup and pour. For tea bags, simply brew in your cup for 3-5 minutes, remove and enjoy.

I’m going to make a cup of Countess Grey right now. Do you have a favorite tea?

xoxo, Jane