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from white2tea
Weekly tea: Charlie
Charlie was actually a beginning for me.
On November 17, 2021, I told my husband something like this: “My challenge for the next year is to not buy any more tea so I have a chance to drink some of the tea we have.”
Now I just want to pause and take in the absolute hubris I had in making that statement. I do not know why I thought I was capable of this. I was not. Never in the history of non-buying challenges has anyone failed as thoroughly as I did here. I didn’t slightly fail it. I completely and utterly trounced it. Just imagine what you would do if you were trying not to buy tea for a year, and then imagine yourself doing the opposite at every possible turn.
And I blame Charlie.
Okay, technically? I blame myself because I am entirely at fault. But also, I blame Charlie.
Here‘s the thing. I said I wasn’t going to buy tea for a year, but sometime in December, I found white 2 tea, a somewhat irreverent, extremely funny, tea company that involves one dude going out and trying every tea he can find for months and then getting the ones he likes best under shipment, and I wasn’t going to buy anything, but see, they had a tea club, and I had this conversation with myself. 
Is it actually buying tea if you are merely subscribing to a service that sends you tea? On a monthly basis?
(Well, yes. Of course that’s buying tea. But it’s not the same as picking out tea myself.)
As some of you may have noticed, I am not good at restraint and I am good at horrible rationalization so I shook hands with my self because that was certainly an argument I made—not a good one, but an existing one—and I ended up subscribed to the tea club.
At nearly the exact same time, I also ordered about 15 separate mini tea cakes from white2tea, BUT that wasn’t buying tea so much as sampling tea because could you call a single-serving mini tea cake a purchase of tea?
(Yes, of course you can, but go away—I’m rationalizing.)
Anyway fast forward to mid-January of 2021 when my first tea club subscription arrived. The first item I received was a 200 gram cake of shou pu-erh called Charlie. The little accompanying description said something like, “This tea was just pressed this month, you should absolutely set it aside to rest for a few months because of this very good and valid reason that I’m going to explain so hold your horses!”
If you thought this was going to be a story about failing a tea-non-buying challenge that involved me holding a single horse for as much as thirty seconds, you are deeply mistaken. I did not hold my horses. I did not even try. I immediately brewed it.
And I fell in love. Charlie was deep, rich, woody, and sweet. Every success brew brought out a different mineral tone. The taste was complex. The soup was like velvet, but still as dark as unadulterated coffee. Brews 4 and 5 were a little wild and bitter for my taste, but given that I had been told to wait a few months and I absolutely hadn’t, I figured that was pretty good.
So here I am, poor tea-deprived person, that I am. I have said that I am not going to buy any more tea and yet I have just discovered the most astonishing, complex, wonderful form of tea yet and I very much would like to explore it.
At this point, I came up with my third rationalization. At the time, I had a tea-related subplot in one of the books I was working on (the second Wedgeford book). (It turns out that I discovered that the tea-related subplot does not belong to this book. Maybe it will turn up somewhere else eventually.) And I had written some things in the at-the-time-existing tea-related-subplot that were like “figure out tea specifics here.”
I was not buying tea so much as figuring out those tea specifics for research. This did technically involve giving people money for tea, but is that buying? (Yes.)
Fast forward six months later. I have set up a brand new magical tea shelf as well as an accessory storage system which includes makeshift humidity-controlled storage for aging tea. I have a whole entire tea newsletter.
The humidity controlled tea storage: an airtight pelican case, Boveda humidity control packets, and a super-cheap humidity detector to alert me when the packets fail.
It’s been six months since I received Charlie, and in that time, the cake has been resting in aforementioned humidity-controlled tea storage. It was finally time for me to try it and see what the tea tastes like now that it’s had a chance to rest. What I found was a calmer version of the tea I tried in January: less of the bitterness, more sweetness, deeper vegetal notes, and a smoothness that was almost like chocolate. Steeps three through seven were gorgeous—dark in color like freshly brewed coffee, with a lasting sweetness.
Charlie, fifth steep: the soup dark like coffee, earthy and yet sweet.
I can’t wait to see what will happen to Charlie over the next few years. Thank you, Charlie, for a delightful journey into complete madness. I think.

Destiny’s captive by beverly Jenkins
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I have been slowly working through Beverly Jenkins’s entire ouevre, book by book—slowly because I am afraid to finish and not have anything left by her. This week, I read Destiny’s Captive, in which Pilar steals Noah’s ship in order to smuggle in guns for the Cuban rebellion against Spain. There are sword duels (Pilar is good with a rapier) and horses and ships and, of course, true love.
One of the things that strikes me about Beverly Jenkins’s books is that while her characters are always deeply, deeply good, they are often not what we would call law-abiding. And for good reason: the laws were unjust, and the people who allowed those laws to flourish were—I have no other word for it—evil.
This was a lovely book and it left me thinking about what it means to abide by laws, and which laws are worth abiding with.
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pottering around
Since I taunted you with what isn’t going to be in the next Wedgeford book (tea subplot), I figured I should taunt you with what is going to be in the next Wedgeford book: pottery subplot.
I figured this out after ramming my head against the tea subplot for a while, and after a while started watching pottery YouTube and TikTok videos to get an idea of what worked. The problem was, my main impression was “this is magic, oh my god, how does that turn into a pot, this person is a magician” which is not actually what someone who was good at pottery would think.
So I signed up for a pottery class, figuring that five weeks would give me enough hands-on experience to fake expertise for a book.
At the end of that first five weeks, I had a moment of clarity that was like, “oh, this is how you center clay, I get it now!” and that made me realize I knew nothing. (For the record, this realization was also incorrect. I did not at that point know how to properly center clay.)
Here’s the thing I learned in the first five weeks: pottery takes patience, and if you’re not patient, you get a bunch of extremely awful, wobbly pots.
Behold, my incompetence!
Please recall the start of this newsletter. I am not a wildly patient person. (Understatement.) But I am an extremely stubborn person, and while this is not a perfect substitute for patience—there’s more screaming “ARRRRGHHH!!” involved—it can do in a pinch.
I am now on week 12, and there is still much to be desired from my pottery. I can point out the many flaws in every piece I’ve made, including the fact that until week 10, my walls would collapse if I tried to make things higher than about 3 inches.
Luckily, I can think of lots of uses for small dishes. Put a little spiked flower frog in the bottom, and you have a little flower dish. Or—more relevant to my interests—I can just pretend that I wanted to make tea cups.
If you go back and look at the first few photos, this week’s tea was served in the first Official Tea Cup ever made by Courtney Milan. It is round, and maybe not entirely symmetrical and I did screw up the rim a bit, and the glaze doesn’t quite behave as I hoped it would, but it’s not the worst thing in the world! Huzzah!
Tiny, Semi-functional dishes: unlocked!
All of this is going to inform something like a total of nine paragraphs in the book itself, but I hope they’re nine good paragraphs? (I’m understating, there is actually a very relevant reason why I feel like I need to figure out how clay feels when it’s done right.)
In the meantime, I have a vision of the Perfect Tea cups that I want to make one day, because somehow I still seem to imagine that I need more tea cups? Either I will achieve that or I will get bored and impatient and quit before then. 😂

Talk sweetly to me
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Some of you may be wondering: Courtney, do you always learn how to do things for your books? The answer is: sometimes, depending. For instance, Rose in Talk Sweetly to Me is a calculator—meaning that she would do difficult mathematical tasks. Obviously, she knows how to use a slide rule, and so I found a slide rule simulator and taught myself to do basic calculations using it. I also looked up the calculations that would have to be done around the transit of Venus so I would know what would have to be done.
Rose was a genius at it and I managed something that was one notch more than incompetence, but it was actually very fun to learn and I have now consigned every bit of knowledge I acquired from that into the great memory hole in my brain.

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SEE YOU next week.
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