Sometimes, there is more in the garden or orchard than you can use up at the dinner table. The same might hold true if you tend to go a little wild at farmers’ markets or on your co-op order. What to do with the oceans of apples, bunches of mint, or the bushels of berries? Sure, there are pies, preserves, and other delightful things that might be made from the bounty, but another possibility is to take at least some of your harvest and bottle it.
Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham is based on a centuries-old legend about tea-picking monkeys. As the story begins, the reader meets Tashi, a young girl who lives alone with her mother, a tea picker, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Each day Tashi accompanies her mother and aunts who travel to the rolling tea plantations to pick tea. While the adults work in the fields, Tashi plays and shares her lunch with a troupe of monkeys under the shade of an ancient tree.
Tashi’s life is disrupted when her mother falls ill and is unable to pick the tea that not only provides for their day-to-day needs, but also would pay for a doctor to heal her mother. Tashi sees this as a problem that goes “around and around, like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Tashi decides to try and take her mother's place and pick the tea herself. How will a young girl fill a basket full of tea when the basket is taller than she is?
Tea can be the centerpiece of a formal party or simply everyday hospitality among friends. Whether you prefer herbal, green, or black varieties, when you sip a cup of tea, you are joining a rich, historical tradition.