Published:24 Jan 2024
Thanks must go to #ChemTwitter and, in particular, to @andrechemist, whose tweet got me started looking at the chemical literature around tea. I’m incredibly grateful to my mother, Lois Cullen Miller, who offered me my first cup of tea on a cold fall morning and who taught me to be curious about the unseen aspects of the world around me, and to my father, Eugene Miller, who always warmed the teapot for me when I visited. My husband, Victor Donnay, was a steadfast support and cheerleader throughout the writing of this book. I have shared many cups of tea and many conversations about chemistry and Star Trek with Lisa Chirlian over the years, which have enriched the writing of this book.
My thanks, too, to Stuart Cantrill, who encouraged me to rummage around in chemistry’s odder corners for the Thesis column in Nature Chemistry, including my take on the best cup of tea from a chemist’s perspective. I first encountered Wilhelmina Green and her paper detailing the chemical analysis of tea infusions while a Herdegen Fellow in 2012 at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, then the Chemical Heritage Foundation.
Christopher Donnay checked that my combinatorics regarding sucrose were correct and read drafts of the introductory material. Michael Donnay sourced tea for me in the UK and read drafts. Andrew DiDonato read the material on ceramics. Denise Conte, Gene Miller, and Leah Miller read portions of the manuscript. Jenna Margolis read and commented on nearly the entirety of the manuscript and I appreciated her perspective on the biological aspects.
Kim Belcher introduced me to Rose Congou tea, which has improved both my afternoons and my writing. Sarah Binau pointed out that caffeine from tea has a different name than caffeine derived from coffee in some languages. I would never have known about the relationship between aluminum and hydrangeas if it were not for a tweet from Christopher Smith, SJ. A conversation with Michelle Mancini and Camilla MacKay at (ironically) a Bryn Mawr College coffee hour led me to explore some of the finer points of teapots.
I must also thank my colleagues, past and present, at Bryn Mawr College for all their support. In particular, I have had the support of the Frank Mallory Professorship in Chemistry, established by Sally Mallory. Trips to Japan with faculty colleagues Marc Schulz and Hank Glassman expanded my experience of tea and its connections to Buddhism. My colleagues at the Vatican Observatory have shared with me the delights of that other caffeinated beverage, at least when you are in Rome. The director of the Observatory, Guy Consolmagno, SJ, pointed me to Masters of Reality and their song T.U.S.A., as well as to some useful methodology for measuring the volumes of odd-shaped objects.
The beautiful photographs that accompany the text were styled and taken by Andrew DiDonato. The idea to include a tea pairing for each chapter was not mine, but that of an anonymous referee of the book proposal. It was a brilliant suggestion, thank you. And, finally, I would like to thank my editor, Helen Armes, for the invitation to spend this time steeping in the chemical literature on tea and for her patience and encouragement throughout the writing of this book.