What inspired you to create a book series around a tea shop?
When I started writing the Tea Shop Mysteries, 16 books ago, tea had just become super popular. Tea shops were popping up like errant mushrooms and all sorts of new tea companies were appearing. It was the perfect storm and I figured a Tea Shop Mystery might just catch on. (Lucky for me, it did!)
When did you become a tea drinker?
I started out drinking garden variety tea in Chinese restaurants. Then I married my husband, who is a professor of Chinese and Japanese art. That led to many, many trips to China, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia and, of course, lots of inspired tea drinking.
Do you have a favorite tea to drink?
I love Japanese green tea. It has such a fresh, distinct flavor – you can almost taste the earthiness in it!
I love the character of Drayton. Did you create him based on someone you know? Where did he (as a character) learn so much about tea?
Drayton just sort of came to me as I was writing Death by Darjeeling, the very first book in the series. It just felt like there should be an older, wiser person hanging around the tea shop. Someone who might have a stabilizing influence on all the craziness that happens, but also someone who was a trifle bit disapproving and proper. That would certainly be Drayton!
The character of Drayton lived in China with missionary parents and went on to work at a tea company in London. He also graduated from the Johnson & Wales culinary school in Charleston. You might say Drayton knows more about tea than this author does!
Have you had the opportunity to see an eighteenth century Chinese tea house? If so, what was the experience like?
In Shanghai, I enjoyed tea and dumplings at a tea pavilion in the Yuyuan Garden. It was built in the mid-1800’s. Of course, there are 3,000 other tea houses in Shanghai, so the sipping is awfully good!
How do you create the tea shop recipes?
Some of them belonged to my mom and my Aunt Lucille, others are recipes that I’ve collected over the years. Of course, I always have a test kitchen going for new scone recipes and my husband doesn't seem to mind one bit!
You create detailed imagery for the tea ware in your book. Do you have your own extensive collection? If so, can you tell us a little bit about your favorite pieces?
I have a few Shelley and Royal Copenhagen teapots, but my husband, Dr. Bob, is the real collector. He has well over 100 Yi-Shing teapots. They are these adorable little brownish-purple clay pots that are made in China. Many are in the shape of gourds, pumpkins, tree stumps, and dragon heads. Some of his best ones date back to the 17th century.
What has inspired you lately?
Well, I just returned from a week in Carmel, California, so there was lots of beach walking and eating of seafood. Also, I’m trying to write a Hummingbird Inn Mystery series set in Carmel, so the trip was excellent research. (Somebody has to do it!)
Do you have any personal tea rituals?
Just that I prefer really fresh loose-leaf tea. Tea leaves are absolutely destroyed by heat, humidity, sun, and time. They really only stay fresh for about a year.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I’m a real thriller fan. John Sandford, Lee Childs, Michael Connelly, that type of author. In fact, I’m writing a new thriller series for Penguin Random House. It’s the Afton Tangler Thriller series and the first book is Finders Creepers.
Thank you Laura for the interview! To learn more about the author you can visit her website here. Dont' forget to stay tuned for the book giveaway!