This reading group guide forThe Color of Teaincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Lost among the bustling, foreign streets of Macau, expat Grace Miller is an outsider in a strange land. Devastated by the news of her infertility and retreating from her unraveling marriage, Grace finds solace in preparing foods from her childhood and from her time spent in Paris with her impetuous Mama. Inspired by the dazzling displays of light on the Chinese New Year, Grace makes a bold decision to open her own small café. Among the casinos, yum cha restaurants, and futuristic high-rise apartment complexes, Lillian’s becomes a sanctuary of macarons and tea where patrons come together, bridging cultural divides, to share in each other’s triumphs and pain. But Grace’s dedication to the café comes at a price—propelling her to a rediscovery of what it means to love and herself.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Hannah Tunnicliffe writes beautiful, tactile descriptions of food and the ritual surrounding food. What was your favorite or the most memorable passage about food from The Color ofTea? Did Grace’s culinary efforts inspire you in any way?
2. What were your initial reactions to Grace and Pete’s relationship? How was their relationship impacted by their inability to start a family? Consider how both characters individually reacted to this news. Compare their relationship at the beginning of the novel to the epilogue. What has changed?
3. “I can feel so self-conscious here. So pale and tall. Too foreign. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been growing more and more foreign over the years.” How is Grace’s identity and sense of self influenced by her surroundings? How did the setting of Macau propel the narrative’s action?
4. Each chapter opens with a description of a decadent macaron— from the “Parisian Crêpe–Inspired Banana with Hazelnut Chocolate Ganache” to “Dragon Fruit Filled with Lemongrass-Spiked Buttercream.” How did these descriptions influence your reading?
5. Many of Grace’s memories of her mother, her childhood, and her relationship with Pete are connected to food. Why is food such a powerful anchor for Grace? What is your most vivid or favorite memory related to food?
6. “I guess some women have a journal; I have Mama. Rubyred-haired Mama.” Discuss the letters Grace writes to Mama. What does Grace’s habit of writing letters that will never be sent tell you about her character? What did these letters reveal about Grace’s and Mama’s relationship?
7. Discuss the theme of motherhood and how it affects each character in The Color of Tea. How does Grace act as a mother figure to Rilla and Gigi? Who does Grace look to as a mother figure or role model? How does Grace eventually come to terms with her relationship with Mama?
8. When Grace meets Linda for the first time, she thinks to herself: “I wish I were better at making girlfriends. Or at least understanding other women. Sometimes it feels like they are speaking another language.” Have you ever felt this way? How does Grace’s approach to relationships change by the end of the novel? Why are Grace’s female friendships so important to her?
9. Discuss the moment in the novel when Grace decides to open her own café. What drove her to this decision? How does Grace’s dream of running her own café help her let go of her dream of becoming a mother?
10. Which character are you most alike? Which character do you most admire? Whom do you think you would most likely be friends with?
11. When talking to Rilla about missing Australia and her previous life, Grace thinks to herself: “I hate this enduring need to make out that your life is perfectly blissful. . . . The oily lies and half-truths leave me feeling uncomfortable and queasy.” Do you think Grace herself is guilty of her own complaint? Do you think she is completely honest with herself about her own struggles? Why or why not?
12. Discuss Grace’s relationship with Léon. Why is Grace so drawn to him? What does he represent? How did you react to the fight between Pete and Léon at the tennis club? Was Pete’s anger justified?
13. Were you surprised by Pete’s confession of infidelity? Why or why not?
14. Discuss the scene where Grace finds out that Jocelyn and Rilla have been sleeping at Lillian’s. Did you understand why she felt betrayed? In your opinion, did Grace overreact? How does this discovery act as a kind of personal catalyst for Grace?
15. What did you think of the ending of The Color of Tea? What has Grace learned from her past? From her mama’s mistakes? From her relationships with Rilla, Gigi, and Marjory? Did you have any lingering questions?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Instruct each member in your book club to invent their own macaron and share your descriptions with the group. Reference the mouthwatering descriptions that introduce each chapter for inspiration! What flavors would you include? What color would your macaron be? If you are feeling adventurous, consider baking macarons for your book club’s meeting. For recipe ideas and tutorials on how to make these elegant confections, visit cakejournal.com/tutorials/how-to-make-macarons/ or www.marthastewart.com/318387/french-macaroons.
2. Write a letter you never intend to send, like Grace does to her mama. It can be to anyone—a friend, a family member, a historical figure, a celebrity, or even a fictional character from your favorite book. When was the last time you wrote a letter by hand? How did knowing the person you wrote the letter to would never read what you wrote influence you? Consider sharing your letters and discussing the experience with your book club members.
3. Grace is inspired to open her own café while watching fireworks on Chinese New Year, celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Rat. For more information about the Chinese Zodiac and astrology signs, visit www.astrology.com/chinese-astrology. Which animal are you and your book club members? Do you think they are accurate descriptions of your personality?
4. Visit www.HannahTunnicliffe.com to learn more about the author and to read her blog where she shares her inspiration and passion for writing and traveling.
Born in New Zealand, Hannah Tunnicliffe is a self-confessed nomad. She has lived in Canada, Australia, England, Macau, and, while traveling Europe, a camper van named Fred. She currently lives in New Zealand with her husband and two daughters and coauthors the blog “Fork and Fiction,” which explores her twin loves—books and food. Season of Salt and Honey is her second novel.