Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin
Through the course of human history, we find a weaving together of events and culture, including people and food, in all manner of combinations. In her book, The Way of Tea and Justice, Becca Stevens paints a picture of the role tea has played as a companion to significant events through the ages, as well as a catalyst for change today. Anyone who loves tea will likely enjoy this book. Her writing is soothing and almost poetic in the way she tells a story painted through the lense of a teacup.
As the founder of Thistle Farms and Thistle Stop Cafe, Stevens has been actively involved in helping women caught as victims and participants in the sex trade turn their lives around and find hope and healing. Interestingly, since tea has been a traded commodity for a long time, it has a history tightly woven with the exploitation of women and slavery. In some ways, tea becomes one of her pictures of redemption in these women’s lives. In her tea house, women redeemed from destruction serve a tea that is fairly purchased, directly from the growers, to maximize the benefit to those doing the producing. Every step of the way, tea becomes a symbol of positive change.
While Stevens primarily focuses on the history of tea and the lives of women from Thistle Farm, she weaves in various other associated topics including reading tea leaves, tea rituals, medicinal tea, tea retreats and teacups. Additionally, the beginning of each chapter features a different kind of tea and various recipes. Initially, I wanted to read this book because of its story of justice and changed lives. Who wouldn’t love that? The story of that work is truly inspirational. Personally, though, I struggled through this book. I’m a more practical reader and tend to enjoy factual stories presented without fluff rather than a more poetic interpretation of information. However, that is personal taste. Anyone who truly appreciates the subtle nuances of a cup of tea and has a heart for justice related work will likely enjoy this compendium of stories, culture and insight.
Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Hachette Book Group. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.