by Stephanie Hanson
One of my favorite places in Reston, Virginia, is a place called Lake Anne Plaza. It’s a lakeside shopping center modeled after an Italian village where chain stores are banned. On Saturdays during the spring, summer, and fall, a farmer’s market and art bazaar pop up. But my two favorite places were always the used book store and Lake Anne Coffeehouse.
The used bookstore was exactly what a used bookstore should be: dark, crowded, shelves everywhere creaking with the weight of double stacked books, books stacked haphazardly on the floor where the shelves could bear no more volumes. There were even baskets of sheet music to thumb through. Exploration could take as long as one wished.
But the best part was the trades. I could take in my own paperbacks and trade for someone else’s discards. I loved the barter system, especially as a poor college student. In fact, it still appeals to this poor graduate student. I would take whatever treasures I found, and the small amount of cash I received for non-trade books, and head over to Lake Anne Coffeehouse. There I would curl up in a squishy leather arm chair, a pot of tea on the table nearby and a fresh pastry warmed just for me. In that place, I could lose all the stress of exams, jobs, and the other dramas of college life. It was my retreat.
Which made me think that a tea book club would be an absolutely fabulous idea. Book clubs abound, but this one would be just a little bit different. The discussion would focus on a shared reading experience, of course, but the snacks and the tea chosen by the hostess would somehow relate to the book. Perhaps for “Wuthering Heights” Heath bars could be a snack or ingredient in cookies, accompanied by English Breakfast tea. And so on. After all, doesn’t tea and good food improve any conversation?