Tea Talk; A Newsletter on The Pleasures of Tea

In 1993, a group of tea writers and educators galvanized by Diana Rosen and Lucy Roman created a quarterly print newsletter with the beguiling subtitle and theme. What are the Pleasures of Tea? One might say, rereading the early issues, that it is the “pleasures” of tea lovers gather and share their growing interests. Tea Talk reminds us that in the late 1990s, the tea industry in the U.S. was very young. These writers, publishers, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts were no less than pioneers.

Tea Talk - Cover of the Fall 1993 Edition

I recently spoke with James Norwood Pratt, author of The Tea Lover’s Treasury, and contributor to Tea Talk about the early days in the world of tea and how this publication holds a place in our history. Imagine the excitement of those early days when an envelope with your copy of Tea Talk appeared in your mailbox. (Before you had an inbox.) It was print-only and surviving copies from those early days are rare. Norwood was kind enough to loan me two editions from his collection. As the current publisher of T Ching, I feel like we are part of its lineage; continuing its role in the lives of U.S. tea lovers. To me, it exemplifies our community. People for whom tea is a daily practice aren’t limited to reading about history and agriculture. We want to connect with other tea people.

Pre-Virtual; A Physical Newsletter

The twenty-four-page newsletter was filled with a great variety of tea love and lore. Regular columns include:

  • B&Bs That Serve Afternoon Tea
  • Jan Peverill’s Bed & Breakfast Report
  • Tina’s Teapots
  • Catalogs Tea-ming With Items for Tea
  • Talking Tea – Reviews of Tearooms
  • Tea Book Reviews & Author Interviews
  • Mail Order Market (classified ads)

Contributors’ warm, conversational tones charm the reader into dreams of traveling across the country for new tea experiences and reassure them that they will find kindred spirits. Want a new book? A new tea? A new teapot?

In addition to the regular columnists, each edition of Tea Talk included several feature articles. Writers strove to introduce readers to some little-known aspects of tea. Some of those were: 

Mate: South American Tea  (author not stated) – “Mate drinking has been a South American communal ritual whenever friends gather, whether they be gauchos, Indians, farmers or city society…

Tea and. . . Sexuality by John C. Evans – “Tea has, for nearly twenty centuries, played a role in human sexuality. In ancient China, tea was originally a remedy for drunkenness…”

Teaneck Tea: A Tea Time Story by Miss Ponchick’s 2nd Grade Class – “Once upon a time, in the north of Jersey, there was a hamlet called Teaneck which had a fine elementary school and a second grade teacher named Miss Ponchick. Not one to be steeped in tradition, Miss Ponchick sat drinking tea one afternoon pondering her latest classroom mystery …”

Fund-Raising Ideas Fit For Tea by Martha Khoury – “Fund-raising doesn’t have to be a drag. When someone asks, “What can we do to make more money,” at your next fund-raising committee meeting, combine your interest in tea with your charity and create a fund-raising tea.”

A Tea To Your Health by James Norwood Pratt – “The most exotic China drink in the whole Camellia kingdom, to me, has always been Pu-Erh.”

China Drink Comes to Golden Gate City by James Norwood Pratt – “As much as I hate to seem trendy, there’s no denying the current buzzword “multi-cultural might have been invented specifically for lovers of the leaf… The Imperial Tea Court, an elegant retreat, its rosewood panelling and furniture created by men in China, opened in July…”

The Great Tea Races by James Norwood Pratt – “The annual tea race became an international equivalent to the Indy 500 or Kentucky Derby.”

And Tea Talk Was Supported by Advertisers

Advertising made it possible to print and distribute Tea Talk but it also provided tea businesses a foot in the door. It’s interesting to see how many of what were small companies then continue to thrive today. Grace Tea Company. Choice Organic Tea. Harney & Sons. Lisa’s Tea Treasures. The Fall 1993 newsletter included the Grand Opening announcement of the first Chado Tearoom in Los Angeles.

Honoring Our History & Learning From It

In the thirty years since Tea Talk served the tea community, those of us who work in the tea industry to promote specialty tea continue to try to understand and serve the needs of tea drinkers. It’s important to remain mindful of these needs. The richness of working with tea education and information like we do here at T Ching is that there never seems to be a shortage of stories.