The Color of Tea

A Novel

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About The Book

An exciting debut novel set in the exotic, bustling streets of coastal China—a woman whose life is restored when she opens a small café and gains the courage to trust what’s in her heart.

Macau: the bulbous nose of China, a peninsula and two islands strung together like a three-bead necklace. It was time to find a life for myself. To make something out of nothing. The end of hope and the beginning of it too.

After moving with her husband to the tiny, bustling island of Macau, Grace Miller finds herself a stranger in a foreign land—a lone redhead towering above the crowd on the busy Chinese streets. As she is forced to confront the devastating news of her infertility, Grace’s marriage is fraying and her dreams of family have been shattered. She resolves to do something bold, something her impetuous mother would do, and she turns to what she loves: baking and the pleasure of afternoon tea.

Grace opens a café where she serves tea, coffee, and macarons—the delectable, delicate French cookies colored like precious stones—to the women of Macau. There, among fellow expatriates and locals alike, Grace carves out a new definition of home and family. But when her marriage reaches a crisis, secrets Grace thought she had buried long ago rise to the surface. Grace realizes it’s now or never to lay old ghosts to rest and to begin to trust herself. With each mug of coffee brewed, each cup of tea steeped and macaron baked, Grace comes to learn that strength can be gleaned from the unlikeliest of places.

A delicious, melt-in-your-mouth novel featuring the sweet pleasures of French pastries and the exotic scents and sights of China, The Color of Tea is a scrumptious story of love, friendship and renewal.

Excerpt

Prologue

We arrived in Macau at the end of the Year of the Golden Pig. Apparently a golden pig year comes around only once every sixty, and it brings good fortune. So when we came to make Macau our home, at the backside end of this golden pig year, there were fat, pink pigs dancing in bank ads, sparkly cartoon pigs wearing Chinese pajamas hanging in the local bakery, and tiny souvenir golden pigs for sale at the post office. All those pigs around me were comforting, with their full snouts and chubby grins. Welcome to Macau! they snorted. You’ll like it here. We do! I was willing to accept any good luck a golden hog could throw at me.

Macau: the bulbous nose of China, a peninsula and two islands strung together like a three-bead necklace, though by now the sand and silt have crept up and almost covered the silk of the ocean in between. Gobbled up, like most everything in Macau, by Progress. Progress and gambling. This tiny country, only twenty-eight square kilometers, once a sleepy Portuguese outpost, is the only place in China where you can drop a coin into a slot or lay a chip on kidney-shaped lawns of soft, green felt. The Vegas of the East. Bright lights, little city, fast cash.

We stepped off the ferry from Hong Kong on the eighth of January 2008. The date had a nice ring to it. A fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning. We arrived with suitcases full of the light, breezy clothes usually reserved for the brief but seductive British summer. We were full of naïve optimism about our new life adventure. My Australian husband and his red-haired, blush-of-cheek English rose. We were babes in the woods.

The January winter was bitter in more ways than one. It was one of the coldest on record, and we were freezing in our bright, thin clothes. Every morning the sky was the color of milk. The apartment had no central heating, and it took us some time to realize we needed a dehumidifier. The walls started to bloom with a dark mold, which spread like a growing bruise, and I couldn’t feel my fingers in the evenings. It was the kind of damp cold that settles deep in the marrow of your bones and refuses to budge.

This is where I will start. Our life in this cold month, before the Year of the Rat began. When we couldn’t run any longer from realities; when life hunted us down and found us. It followed us all the way from Melbourne to London, London to Macau. All that running, and still we were discovered, no longer able to hide out in the meaningless details of our life—who is making breakfast and could you remember to pick up the dry cleaning.

It was time to find a life for myself. To make something out of nothing. The end of hope and the beginning of it too.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Color of Tea includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction
 
Lost among the bustling, foreign streets of Macau, expat Grace Miller is an outsider in a strange land. Devastated by the news of her infertility and retreating from her unraveling marriage, Grace finds solace in preparing foods from her childhood and from her time spent in Paris with her impetuous Mama. Inspired by the dazzling displays of light on the Chinese New Year, Grace makes a bold decision to open her own small café. Among the casinos, yum cha restaurants, and futuristic high-rise apartment complexes, Lillian’s becomes a sanctuary of macarons and tea where patrons come together, bridging cultural divides, to share in each other’s triumphs and pain. But Grace’s dedication to the café comes at a price—propelling her to a rediscovery of what it means to love and herself.

 
Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Hannah Tunnicliffe writes beautiful, tactile descriptions of food and the ritual surrounding food. What was your favorite or the most memorable passage about food from The Color of Tea? Did Grace’s culinary efforts inspire you in any way?

2. What were your initial reactions to Grace and Pete’s relationship? How was their relationship impacted by their inability to start a family? Consider how both characters individually reacted to this news. Compare their relationship at the beginning of the novel to the epilogue. What has changed?

3. “I can feel so self-conscious here. So pale and tall. Too foreign. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been growing more and more foreign over the years.” How is Grace’s identity and sense of self influenced by her surroundings? How did the setting of Macau propel the narrative’s action?

4. Each chapter opens with a description of a decadent macaron— from the “Parisian Crêpe–Inspired Banana with Hazelnut Chocolate Ganache” to “Dragon Fruit Filled with Lemongrass-Spiked Buttercream.” How did these descriptions influence your reading?

5. Many of Grace’s memories of her mother, her childhood, and her relationship with Pete are connected to food. Why is food such a powerful anchor for Grace? What is your most vivid or favorite memory related to food?

6. “I guess some women have a journal; I have Mama. Rubyred-haired Mama.” Discuss the letters Grace writes to Mama. What does Grace’s habit of writing letters that will never be sent tell you about her character? What did these letters reveal about Grace’s and Mama’s relationship?

7. Discuss the theme of motherhood and how it affects each character in The Color of Tea. How does Grace act as a mother figure to Rilla and Gigi? Who does Grace look to as a mother figure or role model? How does Grace eventually come to terms with her relationship with Mama?

8. When Grace meets Linda for the first time, she thinks to herself: “I wish I were better at making girlfriends. Or at least understanding other women. Sometimes it feels like they are speaking another language.” Have you ever felt this way? How does Grace’s approach to relationships change by the end of the novel? Why are Grace’s female friendships so important to her?

9. Discuss the moment in the novel when Grace decides to open her own café. What drove her to this decision? How does Grace’s dream of running her own café help her let go of her dream of becoming a mother?

10. Which character are you most alike? Which character do you most admire? Whom do you think you would most likely be friends with?

11. When talking to Rilla about missing Australia and her previous life, Grace thinks to herself: “I hate this enduring need to make out that your life is perfectly blissful. . . . The oily lies and half-truths leave me feeling uncomfortable and queasy.” Do you think Grace herself is guilty of her own complaint? Do you think she is completely honest with herself about her own struggles? Why or why not?

12. Discuss Grace’s relationship with Léon. Why is Grace so drawn to him? What does he represent? How did you react to the fight between Pete and Léon at the tennis club? Was Pete’s anger justified?

13. Were you surprised by Pete’s confession of infidelity? Why or why not?

14. Discuss the scene where Grace finds out that Jocelyn and Rilla have been sleeping at Lillian’s. Did you understand why she felt betrayed? In your opinion, did Grace overreact? How does this discovery act as a kind of personal catalyst for Grace?

15. What did you think of the ending of The Color of Tea? What has Grace learned from her past? From her mama’s mistakes? From her relationships with Rilla, Gigi, and Marjory? Did you have any lingering questions?

 
Enhance Your Book Club

1. Instruct each member in your book club to invent their own macaron and share your descriptions with the group. Reference the mouthwatering descriptions that introduce each chapter for inspiration! What flavors would you include? What color would your macaron be? If you are feeling adventurous, consider baking macarons for your book club’s meeting. For recipe ideas and tutorials on how to make these elegant confections, visit cakejournal.com/tutorials/how-to-make-macarons/ or
www.marthastewart.com/318387/french-macaroons.

2. Write a letter you never intend to send, like Grace does to her mama. It can be to anyone—a friend, a family member, a historical figure, a celebrity, or even a fictional character from your favorite book. When was the last time you wrote a letter by hand? How did knowing the person you wrote the letter to would never read what you wrote influence you? Consider sharing your letters and discussing the experience with your book club members.

3. Grace is inspired to open her own café while watching fireworks on Chinese New Year, celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Rat. For more information about the Chinese Zodiac and astrology signs, visit www.astrology.com/chinese-astrology. Which animal are you and your book club members? Do you think they are accurate descriptions of your personality?

4. Visit www.HannahTunnicliffe.com to learn more about the author and to read her blog where she shares her inspiration and passion for writing and traveling.

About The Author

Photograph by Jody Lidstone

Born in New Zealand, Hannah Tunnicliffe is a self-confessed nomad. She has lived in Canada, Australia, England, Macau, and, while traveling Europe, a camper van named Fred. She currently lives in New Zealand with her husband and two daughters and coauthors the blog “Fork and Fiction,” which explores her twin loves—books and food. Season of Salt and Honey is her second novel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (June 5, 2012)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451682823

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