Leaf & Sip: Chocolates for Breakfast / Iced Coconut Green Tea

While traveling, often without internet access, I had some time to think about this blog. As I reflected on The Burnished Leaf and what I would like it to become, I decided I would like to combine the categories I write about (style, books, tea, life/travel) more often. Book reviews are easy enough to find online, and there are so many wonderful fashion blogs. It feels fresher and is perhaps a better use of my talents to try to write about overlaps between my interests.

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The novel Chocolates for Breakfast, iced Coconut Green Tea, and a reading companion

So, this is my first book & tea pairing, and the start of what I hope will become a series. In a nod to my blog’s title and the linguistic overlap between “leafing” through a book and the tea leaf itself, I’ve named the concept “Leaf & Sip.”

For each installment, I’ll select a book I’ve read or revisited recently, and pair it with a complementary cup of tea. The tea may be reminiscent of the book in flavor or association, or it may provide a refreshing contrast. Either way, it will be something I savored while reading.

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This time, I selected Pamela Moore’s  Chocolates for Breakfast and Trader Joe’s Coconut Green Tea with Lemongrass & Ginger. I was lucky enough to read the book and sip the iced tea in my mother’s sun-dappled backyard. {Confession: It’s been weeks now since these photos were taken, but I still want to share them with you.}

The pairing was somewhat counterintuitive. At first glance, Pamela Moore’s controversial 1956 coming-of-age novel has little in common with green tea, which is often associated with East Asian tradition and an enlightened lifestyle. By contrast, the protagonist of Chocolates for Breakfast, teenaged Courtney Farrell, drinks black coffee and martinis, and the novel’s only mention of tea is in reference to Upper East Side (NYC) pretense.

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I brewed the tea as usual, then strained into a jar, refrigerated, and drank over ice.

However, other elements of the book allowed me to imagine that it was meant to be enjoyed along with a brew from my new tin. For example, Courtney lives in southern California with her fading movie-star mother for part of the book. She sunbathes at their residential community, named “The Garden of Allah,” which is a collection of villas fringing a swimming pool “whimsically built in the shape of a lotus leaf.” Floodlit palm trees frame the community’s neon, Sunset Boulevard sign, bringing to mind a color scheme not unlike the sky-blue and bright green of this tea tin. Doesn’t the retro feel of its palm-frond design seem to mirror the delightfully kitschy L.A. aesthetic Moore evokes?

And after all, both the tea and book were acquired during my whirlwind weeks of travel. The novel called to me from the shelves of Boulder Bookstore with its foreword by Emma Straub (whose work I’ve written about 1, 2, 3 times), book-jacket comparison to The Catcher in the Rye, and alluring cover art. The colorfully-packaged loose-leaf tea immediately caught my eye as I shopped in a San Francisco Trader Joe’s.

Of course, the plot of this novel involves more than the main character sunbathing poolside. Courtney is a somewhat jarring mix of naïve and sexually precocious, and though she starts out as a bookish teenager with a crush on a female teacher and mentor (the nature of Courtney’s attachment is somewhat ambiguous), she quickly sheds her schoolgirl mentality as she transitions from an East Coast boarding school to the home she shares with her mother in Los Angeles.

Courtney struggles with depression (though in this 1950s novel, it isn’t named as such) and an escapist lifestyle. Moore writes that Courtney has “a woman’s body” at fifteen, and “the ease and assurance with which she used her body … her perpetual consciousness of her body, the vitality and challenge in her green eyes—all these things spoke clearly of passion.” The gravity and, for lack of a better word, bravado with which Moore writes reflect, for me, her own youthful outlook—after all, she wrote the novel at age eighteen. Moore’s own world view seems to percolate just beneath the surface of the novel, and Courtney’s troubled glamour conveys a fitting mix of cynicism and wonder, of wise-before-her-time weariness and youthful magnetism.

Moore paints her protagonist’s romantic relationships in a philosophical manner, and as we watch Courtney date a series of men, larger truths seem to emerge. At times the novel’s perspective on topics like homosexuality seem dated, but Moore’s voice is fresh and distinctive nonetheless.

Chocolates for Breakfast is worth reading for its own sake, but its cultural context is equally fascinating. According to Robert Nedelkoff’s 1997 article “Looking Back on Pamela Moore” (included in my Harper Perennial edition), Moore was seen as the U.S.’s answer to the bestselling and impossibly youthful French writer Francoise Sagan, author of the 1954 novel Bonjour Tristesse (I haven’t read it or seen the film—have you?).

Moore’s youth seems appropriately sophisticated—she traveled to Paris during her senior year of college in order to study European battle tactics and strategy, which, Nedelkoff tells us, “struck the journalists of that time as an entertaining eccentricity in a young woman.” But her personal life proved tragic. I won’t go into the details here, but her story has been articulated by others and is readily accessible.

As for the tea: after brewing it in a teapot, adding a touch of honey, and straining it, I let it cool and sipped it over ice. The sweet taste of coconut tempered the bite of green tea, and lemongrass brightened the flavor. Having sipped this tea hot as well as cold, I would say that the frosty temperature accentuated the coconut flavor, while the hint of honey lent density to it.

DSC04140Calmly drinking my iced tea while reading about the kind of teenage foibles I never truly experienced as a teen gave me a relaxing distance from the book, but I imagine that reading it at a younger age would have been an exciting experience.

For those of you experiencing a classic fall—I envy you. Though these photos were taken last month, the weather in northern California is still just as sunny as it appears here. Though I’m more than happy to forego winter, and I love the feel of sunlight on my skin, I do miss the woodsy feel of a good New England fall.

What do you like to sip while reading?

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6 thoughts on “Leaf & Sip: Chocolates for Breakfast / Iced Coconut Green Tea

  1. I love this concept and I am SO intrigued by this novel — definitely adding it to my reading list, you’ve sold me on it!

    (That tea sounds pretty divine too — especially iced. We’re having hot enough days for coconut over here too 🙂

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    • Thanks for reading, Jessica! I’m such a fan of your blog. Yes, the novel is really intriguing — though I can see why it’s been compared to Salinger, there’s something of a Dorian Gray theme going on in it, too … I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it.

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  2. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH! SO MUCH!

    As I’m writing this, I’m sipping a vanilla rooibos from DAVIDsTEA. Anyway, I’ll be back! Books and tea are two of my favorite things.

    Like

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