A socially conscious Episcopalian priest's account of how and why she started the Thistle Stop Café, a Nashville teahouse that employs females recovering from violence and drug abuse.
In 2001, Stevens (Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling, 2013, etc.) founded two programs dedicated to helping women who had survived “lives of trafficking, addiction and prostitution.” The first, Magdalene, offered shelter. The second, Thistle Farms, offered Magdalene residents the opportunity to earn a living by selling all-natural bath and body products. A little over a decade later, Stevens decided to open the Thistle Stop Café, a business that would use tea to globally expand her vision of social justice. Not only would the cafe be able to offer more work—and personal healing—to Magdalene women by allowing them to serve a healthful drink; it would also encourage international fair-trade practices by dealing directly with tea farms, many of which employed women. The more involved Stevens became in her project—which at times struggled for its very life before finding the financial support it needed to continue—the more she began to see how tea defined the nature of her work in more ways than she imagined. Its association with ritual inspired her to see the way tea-drinking could offer “peace and clarity” in a troubled world. While many teas could be light, others could, like the history of tea itself, also be bitter. But those more biting teas reminded the author of the importance of learning how to sweeten “the cup we have before us” and learn to practice gratitude—like the Magdalene women whose stories she also includes in the book—for all things received. Accompanied throughout by deliciously unique recipes for homemade tea blends and brews, Stevens’ narrative is a softly delivered meditation on the power of faith and love to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.
Quietly uplifting reading.