"No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency" Author Talks Tea and Cake

Readers the world over have enjoyed the meandering adventures of the women who helm the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana. Their author, Alexander McCall Smith, grew up in Africa and tries to visit Botswana once a year. His love of the country comes through strongly in his tales of life and all its complications, and the subtle, clever ways his leading Lady, Mma Ramotswe, untangles mysteries. McCall Smith lives in Scotland and also writes the Isabel Dalhousie series, 44 Scotland Street, and Corduroy Mansions, among other stories. No. 1 Ladies’ fans will be happy to hear that a new novel, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, will hit bookstores in November. As an avid tea drinker, I identify with the detectives and their love of a freshly brewed cuppa. And now I’ve discovered that the Republic of Tea has a set of No. 1 Ladies’ teas, there’s no looking back. McCall Smith took a teabreak to talk about the comfort of tea, his dalliance with coffee, and the emergence of new, fresh local Scottish cuisine. Tea is such a central part of life for the detectives. If there’s a thorny problem or an upset, they immediately put the kettle on. Why do you think tea is such a source of comfort? There are certainly rituals associated with the preparation of a cup of tea. I think that rituals in general are rather comforting — they give us time to reflect on issues, and they take our minds off problems. I think that is one of the reasons why the drinking of tea is a comforting experience. Do you find tea comforting yourself? Do you have any particular tea rituals? Yes, I find that tea helps in moments of stress or anxiety. I do not have particular rituals associated with making myself a cup of tea but I do like to drink it out of bone china teacups rather than mugs. I have a particular aversion to drinking tea from anything that has been used for the preparation of coffee — the two tastes are incompatible. What’s your go-to tea blend? Do you like to try different varieties? I usually go for fairly standard Assam, but I am always happy to have other teas. I occasionally like a cup of green tea or something more exotic. I like the range of teas offered by the Republic of Tea, and I have discovered a number of other teas through them. Ever tempted to cross to the dark side (coffee)? Coffee has its place. I like a cup of coffee after breakfast, but I do not drink much of it during the rest of the day. One should never drink coffee in the afternoon, but I notice that quite a few people do this. You lived in Africa. Is that where you cultivated your love of tea, or does your home country of Scotland get the credit for that? I was first exposed to tea during my childhood in the middle of…

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