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the weekly tea
Elle’s Workshop Blend
from discover teas
Weekly Tea: Elle’s Workshop Blend
As a general rule, I don’t prefer most teas blended with non-tea items. A lot of early tea blends (Earl Grey, for instance) were blended with the goal of obscuring the taste of substandard tea with highly fragrant options. The end result is that the tea itself is not good quality, and what tea there is is overpowered by heavy fragrance and flavor.
In general, if I want to drink an herbal tea, I will drink an herbal tea. If I want to drink tea, I want to drink tea: I want to taste the flavor of the tea, feel the effects of the catechins, and know what I’m drinking.
There are some very clear exceptions to this rule, though. Those are blends that are designed to enhance the tea rather than to disguise it. The most prominent example of this you’ll find in the west is a great jasmine green tea: one where the tea is coiled into little pearls alongside dried jasmine flowers, where the delicacy of the tea matches and enhances the jasmine.
Another example is this delightful tea, a blend of green, black, and oolong with chrysanthemum which is commonly served with dim sum. The tea is earthy and fragrant; the chrysanthemum is sweet and yet stabilizing, and together they make a wonderfully well-rounded tea.
This blend was custom made by Discover Teas for Mia Tsai’s new release, Bitter Medicine, which I talk about below. I’ve actually ordered from Discover Teas before and had a great experience. One of their huge value-adds is doing custom blends and consultations. This is a blend that truly respects the tea, and for me, that’s the highest praise I can give to a tea blend.
You can get this tea temporarily on Discover Teas through next Monday, March 20th, as their weekly Test Kitchen blend. If you miss out on getting it this week, you can request “Elle's Workshop Blend” from their custom-order page.

What it means (to me) to be Asian Diaspora
Michelle Yeoh’s historic and well-deserved Oscar win for Best Actress for her incredible performance in Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was one of my great delights of this last week. But in discussing the historic nature of an actress of Asian descent winning for the first time, I also learned about Merle Oberon, an actress of South Asian descent who was nominated for Best Actress in 1935.
She hid her South Asian ancestry, claiming to have been born in Australia where her birth records were destroyed in a fire. As a woman of color, there were explicit rules on the books that would have prevented her from having a career.
This got me thinking about the Asian diaspora. When I was growing up, I enjoyed the other (few) Asian diaspora stories I came across; they resonated with me. But one of the things I found was that there was a particular kind of Asian diaspora story-telling that seemed to predominate.
It was the one where there was a culture clash between the parents, who wanted to hold on to their identity, and the kids, who wanted to just “be American.” This was, I think, my mom’s journey. She was the first generation of children to be born in the US and not go back to China. (Her mother was born in Oahu, but was sent back to China from the ages of four to fourteen. Her father’s family had been in the US for two generations, but their wives stayed in China, and her father was born in China and came to the US at the age of eleven.)
My mom just wanted to be American. She spoke very little of any Chinese dialect (her sisters learned more, at their mother’s insistence, but my grandmother died when Mom was very young). Most of the food I grew up on came from recipes she mined from her favorite store of wisdom: Adelle Davis, an American nutritionist wildly popular in the mid-twentieth century.
My mom didn’t hide her racial identity the way Merle Oberon did—she wouldn’t have been able to, for one thing—but she did buy into the world view that in order to fit in, she had to give up on the culture she was born into, but for special occasions and celebrations. (Even then, my mom sometimes outright panics about some aspects of her heritage—she was told when she was young that it was idolatry to burn incense, and her reaction to being told I had some was pretty astonishing. She doesn’t read my newsletter, I hope; her reaction feels like a pretty strong trauma response.)
When I was younger, it took me a long time to feel like I was “authentically” Asian. How could I consider myself Asian, when I didn’t have to go to Chinese school like some of my Asian-American friends? When we didn’t speak the language? When my mom wouldn’t let me drink the tea if we went out to dinner with her sisters?
It has taken me a long time to understand that not knowing is in fact an authentic part of the Asian Diaspora experience: that ancestors erasing their heritage in order to fit in has a long history, and it doesn’t lessen me to learn these things as an adult rather than as a child.
It’s made me want to write Asian diaspora stories that don’t fit the mold of “wanting to fit in” with the dominant culture. Those, I think, are a product of a world that I hope is dying, one in which there is a dominant culture.
I want to know the things my mother had to erase in order to fit in.

The Devil Comes Courting
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I had Amelia’s story in my head since the moment I envisioned the Worth Saga. The story of a young Chinese girl, taken in by English missionaries who taught her how to behave like a proper young lady, only to discover that she would never meet the conditions to be a proper English lady…
This was a story I wanted to tell from the moment I started thinking about stories that resonated with the part of me that wanted to know.
Amelia’s gradual discovery of the things she didn’t remember, but which she deserved to know, is something that has meant a lot to me.
Buy The Devil Comes Courting on:

Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai
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I read a lot of urban fantasy about ten years ago. In fact, I still do—I enjoy that feeling of a gritty modern world married with magic, werewolves, and vampires.
Bitter Medicine, though, felt transformative for me. It’s the same world we live in, but one in which Chinese fantasy elements are deeply embedded into the world building. This is an urban fantasy where the Chinese diaspora is deeply embedded in the world, where family plays a deep role, and where two lonely people who have to hide their true selves from everyone else finally learn to open up to each other.
I freaking loved this book and I have been impatiently waiting for it to be available so I can tell everyone else about it. I hope you will love it, too!
Buy Bitter Medicine on:

Until next week!
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