Tea with Tracee de Hahn
*Today I’ve invited author Tracee de Hahn to join me and share her love of tea with us*
I’m delighted to join any endeavor that is an ode to tea! Thank you, Samantha for inviting me.
How the ideas emerge, how the plot is created, where I write, how I edit, all of these are common questions posed to any writer. After all, aren’t we all searching for the ‘thing’, that key ingredient to creating a published book? I know what my key ingredient is. The one thing I really couldn’t do without. Tea.
Seriously. Ask my family or close friends. I like everything about tea. The cups, tea pots, strainers, stores selling tea things, and, of course, the taste and smell of the tea itself. I grew up on iced tea. (Strangely, unsweetened. I say strangely since we were in Mississippi.) At some point, perhaps in college, I started drinking hot tea in the winter. Nice, comforting familiar flavor.
Then I went to Europe and all things changed. I had loose tea for the first time. There was variety and I fell in love with the process, the places, and, yes, the real flavor.
For many years now I have been a devotee of Twining’s Lady Grey tea. I travel frequently and am always tempted (better stated – lured!) to try and buy other types. Every year in India I am convinced that I must have the first flush of whatever is being picked. Through it all, I return to Lady Grey.
These days I drink hot tea all year round with an occasional glass of iced tea (iced tea is for ‘on the move’. Anytime I don’t have time to sit and enjoy a cup of hot tea which requires at least 20 minutes). For my habit, I have dozens of tea pots but keep about two in daily use. Confession, I am partial to silver since it is forgiving if the tea leaves aren’t emptied immediately and I once ruined a marvelous clay pot with tea leaves left overnight. I also have a few iron pots from Dammann Frères in Paris. Lovely but heavy!
My grandmother spotted my love of tea immediately and started a tea cup collection for me. Over the years, I’ve accumulated maybe a hundred tea cups and saucers, some antique and some splashed with bold modern patterns. A tea cup can set an entire tone for the day – is it easy to pick up and drink from so I don’t have to look away from the page I am proofreading or is the handle elaborate and tricky and requires full attention? Does the pattern set the tone of the court of Louis XVI (glamorous yet doomed) or is it modern Japan, or mid-century America?
Strainers are another tea obsession. (Full disclosure I have some strainers that are oversized and therefore technically punch strainers…. but I use them for tea.) Some have simple lines, others showcase their country of origin (a windmill on the top of the handle was very popular for the Netherlands).
Most of all, I like that to drink tea means to slow down and take time to reflect. I literally cannot gulp hot tea (unlike hot coffee which I drink quickly). Hot tea is for reflection, which makes it perfect for a writer. I spend all day (alone) reflecting. Trying to pull ideas onto the page from my head or outline or notes. Tea fills those spaces when I am pausing to select the correct word or character or scene.
Recently, I put the finishing touches on A Well-Timed Murder, the sequel to Swiss Vendetta, the first in the Agnes Lüthi series. I wish I’d kept a count of the pots of tea drunk in getting this done. (Technically I can count the metal tins sent to me by Twining’s…. I’m better off not knowing.)
Ironically, the heroine of Swiss Vendetta, police inspector Agnes Lüthi, isn’t a tea drinker. She’s committed to espresso. Proof that characters aren’t ‘the writer in disguise.’ A widow with three young children, Agnes doesn’t have time to drink tea. The setting also precluded tea as the staple drink. Trapped in a château by a blizzard, a little nip of sherry now and then kept the cold at bay, and champagne was deemed inappropriate after the body of a young woman was discovered on the lawn. It was one of those times when tea simply wasn’t enough.
Now, I’m going to put a pot of hot water on and settle in to start on the third in the series!
Tracee de Hahn is author of the Agnes Lüthi mysteries, which were inspired by her years living in Switzerland. Prior to writing full time she practiced architecture and was head of university alumni relations at a major west coast university. Currently she and her husband live in southwest Virginia with their Jack Russell Terriers and Flemish Giant rabbit.
Find Tracee at:
Pinterest: The Agnes Lüthi Mysteries