Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Teashop Girls

The Teashop Girls
by Laura Schaeffer
256 pages
Young Adult Fiction
Simon & Schuster

Annie, Genna, and Zoe have been the closest of friends and at the age of six they all fell in love with the Steeping Leaf. It was there that they were coined Teashop Girls, by Annie's Grandmother Louisa when they were almost too young to remember. The teashop was their childhood, they made treats and served them to each other for tea, and spent hours pouring over their Tea Handbook learning all there is to know, making up special advice and interesting uses for different types of tea. They even had a Teashop Girl rules one of them being that it was required to meet weekly for tea together.

Eight years later they are all still close friends, but there is much more to do now that they are in middle school. Annie discovers troubling news about the shop, it is likely to not be around much longer. After earning herself a position as a barista at the teashop, there is no stopping her, she wants to keep Steeping Leaf open! She wishes she could run to her best friends for help and support but will the years have allowed them to stop valuing their teashop the way she still does?

I adored the Teashop Girls. The writing was great, the characters developed to where I felt I knew them, and I couldn't put it down. The clocked ticked and I stayed up reading it hour after hour. I needed to know what was going to happen to the Steeping leaf, and the Teashop Girls!

What I respected the most about this young adult read is that it is one that I would actually let my kid read. I have read other books in this genre which are just to mopey, dark or depressing for me to want to pass on. The Teashop Girls however is spectacular. It isn't that the girls are perfect, or that they always do everything right, but they try and they know what is right and that is what makes the difference. Sure, they are in the midst of their awkward years (do those years ever end!?!?) but they have security in knowing who they are and this book is helping them develop a sense of what is important to them. Most of all I love Annie, she sees what she wants and grabs it, she is motivated, brilliant and extremely sweet...just my kind of gal! I strongly recommend this book, it is sure to satisfy, as long as it is read with a cup of tea in hand at all times.

Q&A with Laura Schaeffer
Author of The Teashop Girls:


What is your favourite tea? Do you drink different teas at different times of the day? Do you worry about caffeine intake, or do you just sip away?

I have lots of favorites. Lately, I like to begin the day with jasmine bloom, Masala chai, or English Breakfast. I don't really worry too much about caffeine, but I try not to have any after 7pm. That's when Salada green tea comes in handy, because it is decaffeinated. Another tea I tried recently and loved was the French Breakfast variety from cha cha tea. Cha Cha is a local Madison tea company and has some really delicious tea.

When did you first fall in love with tea, and who was it that shared that first cup with you?

I didn't experience quality tea until after college. A whole new world opened up when I finally tried it! My best friend Aimee and I went to high tea at several places including teany in NYC and Sherlock's in Florida. I realized then how special good tea could be.

My two little boys love tea parties, we use my fransiscan china apple tea cups and they love the little saucers. We drink licorice root (mostly because they love the natural sweetness of it and I love that it doesn't have any stimulants). What are the best teas that you know of which are naturally sweet for little kids like mine?

I agree that sticking to herbal teas is probably a good idea for children, because most herbals do not have caffeine. I'd recommend peach ginger tissanes, or herbals that include dried berries or mango. It also never hurts to add a little honey for extra sweetness! I find I enjoy most teas more with just a little honey.

The Teashop Girls:

Lets move on to your book, The Teashop Girls. Personally I can't wait to share it with my daughter when I have one who is old enough to read it. You are an amazing writer and even though it is a YA book, I was engrossed like crazy!

What books did you read when you were that age (between the ages of 8-14) that really inspired The Teashop Girls?

I loved Anne of Green Gables, The Babysitter's Club books, Harriet the Spy, books by Ellen Conford, and the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry. I also liked reading some classics like The Secret Garden, Little Women, and Gone with the Wind. I read all the time when I was a tween.

I personally loved the purity in this book, the girls acted like girls and yet they were honest, kind, and it was clean and wholesome. Was that a goal of yours while writing it or is that naturally your style for that age group? Did you consciously remove things that you found questionable for young girls to read?

Writing this way came naturally to me, but it is also a goal of mine to write books featuring girls who I'd want to befriend. There is plenty of time to be a grown-up, why rush it?

Also, books have always been a peaceful escape for me, and I wanted to create a warm world for my readers to enjoy. That's part of the reason Annie has such a great family and lives in such a wonderful neighborhood.

I cannot describe how excited I was to read a novel for girls in which the girls have their faults but are still very secure in themselves. They didn't question everything and were loving to their parents. Did you intend Annie, Genna and Zoe to be three role models for young girls (not that we all can't learn from them!!)?

Yes, I did. I believe that everything we read, see, and consume becomes a part of us in some small way, so I wanted my characters to be respectful and interesting girls. It's completely normal to be a bit self-conscious when you're 13, but I wanted to convey that the Teashop Girls where doing amazing things, not just putting their energy into looking good. It's SO much more interesting to be a tennis champion, an artist, a loving part of a crazy family, or a new barista than it is to just worry about how "cool" you are.

Annie is a very mature girl, thinking about things way beyond her age, worrying about the teashop that she has grown up in and really is home to her. Did you write her character from experience? Do you find you have a lot in common with Annie when you were that age or even now?

Well, first of all, I think there are a lot of 13 year olds out there who are extremely sensitive to the world around them, perhaps more than adults even realize. Annie is mature, but I also feels she's realistic. Tweens live in the world, and want to change some things and have a voice, just like adults do at times. I did have a lot in common with Annie at that age. I think it would be hard to write a main character who isn't, at least in some ways, me.

The Making of The Teashop Girls:

I'd like to ask you about the writing of this book. When did you start writing The Teashop Girls?

I began in the summer of 2005.

I know first second and third drafts are common, did the story change drastically from when you first wrote it?

Yes, it did. The first draft was set in Florida instead of Wisconsin. Can you believe it? I'm so glad I "brought it home," so to speak.

Besides tea and cupcakes where did you find your inspiration?

I've worked for a local restaurant called Imperial Garden for nine years, so I have a good idea of how food service jobs work! I also found inspiration among my family and friends. For example, my best friend Aimee is in to yoga, and my good friend Stefan is a Zen Buddhist monk.

I already have gushed over how much I loved this book, how great I think it is...so tell me, is there a sequel!?! Do you have a title for it and release date or am I getting ahead of myself!??!?

I would love to write a sequel. I have an outline, but no title or release date yet. I will say that I plan to have Annie become involved in Madison's amazing farmer's market and learn more about the local food movement.

Laura, thank you so much for this interview. I wish every book I read had this stature, this quality and the appeal that this one did. I can't say enough just how much I liked it. Thank you for writing a book that I think should be on every young girl's shelf and I will hold onto my copy in hopes of a daughter to share it with. Thank you.

The Perfect Tea Pairs:
What tea is Laura Schaefer drinking right now?

Gingerbread Cupcakes(p.35) & Organic French breakfast from Cha Cha Tea
Spiced Blueberry Scones(p.78) & Jasmine bloom from Adagio Tea
Cucumber Sandwiches(p.189) & Citrus mountain oolong Cha Cha Tea

You are in luck, Laura Schaefer is going to share the Gingerbread Cupcake recipe with my readers, but if you want to try the other scrumptious delicacies, well that is just one more reason to buy the book!

Gingerbread Cupcake &
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

(Published on B&b ex libris with permission from the author. original recipe is from The Teashop Girls p. 35)


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup all -purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup milk
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 and 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl combine the butter with white sugar. Add the molasses and the egg to the creamed mixture.

In another bowl stir the flour, two kinds of ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt together. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add in the milk mixture. Pour the batter evenly into the lined tin.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.

To make frosting: combine cream cheese, half-and-half, lemon zest, and powdered sugar. Frost cupcakes once they are cool.

Makes 10-12 cupcakes.

B&b family Teatime
(aka. who says tea parties are only for girls!?)


Goms said...

Bethany, sounds like a wonderful book to curl up with. will be on my TBr list for lazy Sunday afternoons!

bermudaonion said...

I couldn't wait to read this because I knew how much you loved The Teashop Girls. Great review! The recipe looks delicious and I love the pictures of your precious boys at their tea parties! Thanks for sharing.

Tea said...

Oh, I'm glad to get here. I'm still new at blogging. I couldn't find where to put my comment. I love iced tea more than hot tea. Plus, the pronunciation of my first name is pronounced as "Tea" in the second syllable. There are only two syllables to my first name.

I've never heard of "The Teashop Girls." I'm so hoping my library has a copy.

If you don't hear from me, I've gotten lost in blogland, trying to figure everything out.

Thanks for having me.

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful boys! Great post :)

Ti said...

What a charming interview! I need to read this now. My daughter is only five but I feel compelled to read it and then put it away for her to read later :)

Anonymous said...

Bethany - great review! The book definitely looks like something I'd enjoy. The pictures with your boys' tea party are ADORABLE!

And to answer your question, I personally do not think that the awkward years ever end... I am 25 years old and still feel awkward at least 50% of the time. :)

Beth F said...

Awesome review, interview, photos, recipes! You have it all! My review will up tomorrow! I just loved this book.

Corinne said...

This sounds super fun! I love a good young adult read :)

Julie P. said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this entire post. I have read THE TEASHOP GIRLS too and positively adored it. I can't rave enough about what a wonderful this book is for young girls. Your interview was great too!

KyleeJ said...

Great post! It all looks so good: the book, the tea and snacks.

This one is going on my wishlist. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

sounds like a perfect suggestion for a few of my students who are emerging readers! i'm going to snap up a copy. loved the tea party--is that franciscan/jb china i spy?! :)

S. Krishna said...

This book sounds so cute! I definitely want to read it.

Bonnie said...

What a great review! I read another wonderful review and yours was the icing on the cake. I'll definitely be reading this book! Wonderful review, intereview with author and adorable pics of tea with your boys!! The recipe sounds delicious also..I'm going to try those cupcakes.

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful post, Bethany! Seriously! I love the way you had so many different elements in this one post - the review, the interview, the recipe and of course, a lovely picture of your boys! I have this book sitting on my TBR pile as well.. Your post has made me want to pick it up immediately!!

Anonymous said...

And guess what, I did pick my copy of "Teashop Girls" and I am loving it! I didn't want to get in to work this morning. I wanted to be in bed all day with hot cups of tea reading this woderfully cheerful book.. but unfortunately i had to get to work and so I've been doing half of what I wanted to do.. i've been drinking different varieties of tazo herbal tea all day!:)