“Oh my. Look over there. It’s the duchess!”
“Who’s that? Isn’t it the elegant duchess? Hee hee!”
You ignore the maids’ snide attitude as they walk past you, but you can hear soft mocking laughter as you continue down the corridor.
It’s already been about a week since you literally woke up in this new world, from the luxurious bed of a duchess! The mansion maids’ derisive attitude and casual mockery of you was even more shocking, but you’ve gotten used to it.
Your mind drifts, thinking back to your old life in South Korea…
Ever since you took up a job at an accounting firm, you’ve worked hard to ensure that your colleagues are happy with your performance. Over the years, the occasional favor for your colleagues became taking on much of their duties on top of your own.
One day, a major project fell through and your boss furiously deemed you responsible. You already had so much work on your hands at the time, but couldn’t bring yourself to say it.
You accepted full responsibility and he demanded your resignation on the spot.
That night, after drinking yourself into a stupor at home, you promise to live for yourself and never again work for the approval of others…
One morning, the head maid and two other maids come to your room, late as usual. They offer to get you dressed for the day.
Unnerved by the head maid’s look of utter disdain, you remember the times when she deliberately dressed you in dirty dresses for her own amusement.
Standing up, you tell the head maid to come closer.
You slap her, shocking the other maids. With firm determination, you tell them that you punished the head maid for being late and that further tardiness won’t be tolerated. For a moment, the head maid’s face becomes a mask of shocked fury, but she quickly regains her composure and leaves with the others.
That night, while having dinner with your husband, you think back on the opportunity you lost on your old world. The one joy you had in life but couldn’t indulge. Gathering your courage, you look at the Duke in the eye from across the table.
“I need tea”, you say.
The Duchess’ 50 Tea Recipes (공작부인의 50가지티 레시피) is a webnovel and webcomic written by Ji-ha Lee.
Ha-Jung Park awoke in another world as the Imperial Duchess Chloe Vandenberg on the day she was fired from her job as corporate accountant. Having sworn an oath to never let anyone take advantage of her again, Chloe turns her life around as she stands up to the people who mistreated her, maids and nobles alike, and focused her passion on the one thing that gave her joy in her first life: tea.
In the Empire, tea is mostly unknown and is usually derided by the aristocracy as a barbarian’s drink, with wine and coffee being more popular. Making her first ever request to her husband, Chloe asks for permission to purchase a variety of the world’s teas. Intrigued by his wife’s newfound passion, Duke Alphonse Vandenberg purchases several crates of tea and Chloe uses methods from modern-day Earth to prepare it into innovative beverages unheard of in the Empire.
With her passion for tea, Chloe is able to win the favor of the people around her, from giving the household knights cold, fruity tea after a hot day of training to accompanying her once-indifferent husband over a daily cup of hot black tea.
Duchess Chloe Vandenberg, née Gray, the young wife of Duke Alphonse Vandenberg and the eldest daughter of Count Gray. Weak-willed, quiet and painfully timid, Chloe was deeply afraid of being hated by others. Ironically, her poor self-esteem has resulted in her becoming the laughingstock of the Empire’s aristocracy. She also had no appreciable skills to speak of and deferred her household management duties to her mansion staff. Ignored by her husband, Chloe was often mistreated and slandered by her own maids.
At the story’s beginning, Chloe became the second life of Ha-Jung Park (박하정, Pak Ha-jung), a 28-year old Korean corporate accountant. Kind and diligent, Ha-Jung constantly sought approval and never complained when others pushed their work onto her. As a result, her colleagues took advantage of her while they received the credit. When a major project failed, Ha-Jung was fired after she was forced to shoulder the blame. Afterwards, she swore to live for herself and not seek others’ approval again…
Armed with Ha-jung’s memories and her own, Chloe began to retake control of her life. Her new confidence frightens the maids and noble ladies who once bullied her and wins her new friends as well. Focusing on her first life’s passion for tea, Chloe introduces a type of drink new to the Empire, piquing the interest of her husband, the Vandenberg household staff and, eventually, other nobles. With the business management skills retained from her previous life, Chloe is able to regain control over the Vandenberg household finances and start up a shop to sell spreads, particularly the milk jam she used to make in Korea!
Duke Alphonse Vandenberg, the ruler of the Imperial Duchy of Vandenberg. Aloof, authoritative and narcissistic, Alphonse is a handsome, intelligent and powerful nobleman who broke the hearts of many women. His marriage to Chloe was out of political convenience and he was mostly uninterested in her. This started to change once he noticed a confident passion in her that he had not seen before in their 13 months together. Discovering a curious interest in his wife’s tea, Alphonse begins to feel an unfamiliar attraction to Chloe and even orders tea from overseas for her. His passions stirred, Alphonse gradually spends more time with his wife.
Ms. Collin, the head maid of the Vandenberg household and the former second daughter of Count Collin. As a child, she was bullied by the other noble children until she joined them in bullying the young Chloe. After this, Ms. Collin continued to bully Chloe well into adulthood, even after she was sent to the Vandenberg household as a maid when her father faced financial difficulties. Cruel and spiteful, Ms. Collin encouraged the other maids to disobey and mistreat the Duchess. After Chloe starts to gain the respect of the Vandenberg household, the furious head maid plots to discredit her, including an attempt to frame the Duchess for a delivery of rotten food and manipulating a maid to recommend a dangerous location for a picnic.
Cale, the butler of the Vandenberg household. Responsible and loyal, Cale firmly believes in giving respect to those who deserve it. For this reason, he did not stop the maids from harassing Chloe, who had proven herself both socially inept and lacking in skill. This changes when the Duchess begins to stand up for herself and demonstrate her ability to independently draw up viable financial plans. She even makes him chamomile tea as a remedy for his insomnia.
Jacob, Balt and Cain, three knights of the Vandenberg household. Chloe offers them some cold, fruity tea when they come through the mansion parlor one day. The knights become friendly with Chloe, who prefers to treat them casually without a care for status.
Ellie, the youngest maid of the Vandenberg household. As the only maid who never mistreated Chloe, she becomes the Duchess’ first friend despite the risk of becoming shunned by the other maids.
How can others love us if we don’t even love ourselves?
It’s easy to say that being selfish is bad, but being too selfless can be harmful as well. This story demonstrates that being too obedient and too humble can lead others to take advantage of you and ruin your self-image. It’s mostly about Chloe’s personal fight to regain her confidence in herself through being more assertive in her beliefs, using her skills to contribute to others’ livelihoods and indulging in her personal hobby while sharing it with others.
The happiness that Chloe gains from her new assertions also improves her relationships with others, resulting in friendships that never would have happened if she stayed timid. It also allows her formerly indifferent husband to think better of her. Self-love requires confidence in oneself, so some pride and some selfishness is necessary if we want a better outlook on life. We’re only human after all!
For example, Chloe introduces tea to others and uses modern-day recipes to prepare it in a variety of ways. By maintaining her confidence in her passion and showing others how tea can also be a delicious drink, Chloe develops confidence with herself while teaching others to share her interest as well. Do you have an interesting hobby? Why not show it to your family and friends? Maybe they would appreciate it and you’d feel better about yourself!
The different types of tea and the methods used in their preparation show how deep global tea culture is, from casual cold fruit tea (how is ice kept cold in a Renaissance-era kitchen anyway?) to aromatic tea from China or India. Even tea sets can vary widely in design, to appeal to a drinker’s aesthetic or for use in certain brewing techniques.
If you want others to love you, you must love and care for yourself first.