Tea shows up in quite a few young adult novels. I adore tea and on occasion I may go overboard trying and buying different varieties–so when characters are drinking tea, I pay attention.
When thinking about tea, one book that immediately springs to mind is Darius the Great Is Not Okay and its companion Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram. Our interview with him is here–and yes, we did talk about tea.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian–half, his mom’s side–and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
Here are a few others I’ve enjoyed that feature tea.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
A Magic Steeped in Poison–the first book in the Tea Duology by Judy I. Lin [this will be our discussion book for May!!]
I used to look at my hands with pride. Now all I can think is, “These are the hands that buried my mother.”
For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.
When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.
But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.
Serpentine by Cindy Pon [who also happens to talk about her favorite milk tea in our interview here]
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.
Jade Fire Gold by June C.L. [Our group discussion of this one is here]
Told in a dual POV narrative, JADE FIRE GOLD is a YA fantasy inspired by Chinese mythology as well as xianxia and wuxia elements. Epic in scope but intimate in characterization, fans of classic fantasies and the magical Asiatic setting of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER will enjoy this cinematic tale of family, revenge, and forgiveness.
In order to save her grandmother from a cult of dangerous priests, a peasant girl cursed with the power to steal souls enters a tenuous alliance with an exiled prince bent on taking back the Dragon Throne. The pair must learn to trust each other but are haunted by their pasts—and the true nature of her dark magic.
The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters
An avid comic book geek, Wes excels at two things: slacking off and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ’90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local indie bookstore, is threatened when a coffeeshop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his family won’t stop pestering him about picking a college major.
When all three problems converge, Wes must face with the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.
And a few specifically had boba tea–
A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen [Our review is here]
To everyone else, high school senior Liza Yang is practically perfect. Pretty, smart, and well-liked, she’s salutatorian of her class and starting a prestigious university in the fall. To her ultra-traditional Taiwanese mom, however, Liza is stubborn and rebellious, unlike her older sister Jeannie. She won’t even date a proper Asian boy! The only thing mother and daughter agree on is Liza’s talent for baking. With Mrs. Yang’s annual junior baking competition on the horizon, Liza’s determined to prove she’s more than Jeannie’s shadow. If only she knew her mother has plans of her own…
Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach [our review is here]
Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.
When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.
Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few books with tea. If you know of others, please share the titles with us. Happy reading!