Although the much-loved song from A Sound of Music says ‘Tea with Jam and Bread’, Tea is terrific just on its own or with piping hot scones fresh from the oven, a teacake or other morning tea treat.
Our universal yet varied customs, traditions and habits of drinking Tea are often titles, and lyrics in songs or set the scene in films, books and works of literature. Tea is also depicted by artists in leisurely painted scenes of Afternoon Tea through the ages in picturesque settings or enviable gardens or form the dialogue in screenplays and films. Perhaps Tea is a muse for creativity and inspiration for artistic aspirations.
From nursery rhymes to rock music, tea and teapots have played a part in all areas of popular culture – song lyrics, film titles and dialogue, or a background to a story or film that portrays just how widespread our love of tea-drinking is.
I'm a little teapot, Short and stout, Here is my handle Here is my spout When I get all steamed up, Hear me shout, Tip me over and pour me out! I'm a very special teapot, Yes, it's true, Here's an example of what I can do, I can turn my handle into a spout, Tip me over and pour me out!
The endearing nursery rhyme ‘I’m a little Teapot Short, and Stout” by Tin Pan Alley songwriters Clarence Kelley and George Harry Sanders in 1939 is a Tea favourite. Also by Tin Pan Alley in 1931 is ‘When I take my Sugar to Tea’ by Leon Redbone and recorded by Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
Children’s classic stories are often set around the Tea table in gems like ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ by Judith Kerr in 1968, a book that captures the imagination of sharing tea with a tiger. David Walliams narrates a film of the story with actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Tamsin Greig and David Oyelowo voices. Robbie Williams wrote a song for the soundtrack called Hey Tiger. Winnie The Pooh by AA Milne and Alice Through the Looking Glass and Mary Poppins, Raggedy Ann’s Tea Party Book Elizabeth Silbaugh and Madeline’s Tea Party by John Bemelmans Marciano.
Doris Day in the 1950s sang ‘Tea for Two’ in the movie of the same name as did Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1960s and 70’s we had ‘Afternoon Tea’ and ‘Have a cup of Tea’ by The Kinks, Cat Stevens’s famous song – Tea For The Tillerman and Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Tea Leaf Prophecy’.
Actors are often quoted on their favourite tea, and love of the beverage as are the characters they play in films. How many of these Tea inspired films have you seen that depict the social gatherings around Tea or the anticipation of guests arriving for afternoon Tea, and the art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony?
- Tea with Mussolini- 1999
- Downton Abbey -2019
- How to Make An American Quilt-1995
- The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – 2015
- Suicide Squad – 2016
- The Great Gatsby – 2013
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – 2005
- Alice in Wonderland – 1951
- The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe -2005
- The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings -2001
- Titanic- 1997
- The Princess Diaries-2001
- Pride and Prejudice -1995 ( there is only one Mr Darcy and this it)
- Who’s Got Mail-1998
- Tea With The Dames -2018
- Mona Lisa -1986
- The Great Escape -1963
- Paddington – 1958
- Mary Poppins -1964
- Bronson – 2008
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 2004
- The Elephant Man -1980
- Scott Pilgrim vs the World -2010
- Tea Fight-2008
- All in this Tea -2007
- Blood, Tea and Red String -2006
- Eat a Bowl of Tea -1989
- Green Tea-2002
- Oh What a Lovely Tea Party -2004
- The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice-1952
- The Aroma of Tea-2006
- Tea For Teacher-1947
- Tea in the Harem-1983
- Tea for Three-1927
- Coffee Tea or Me -1973
- Tea For Two Hundred -1948
- The Tea Party-2012
- Love is a Many Splendored Thing-1949
- Storm in a Teacup-1937
- Tea for Two-1950
- All in This Tea-2007
In 1998 Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks starred in You’ve Got Mail with a scene for their characters Kathleen and Birdie shared afternoon tea. Tom Hanks as Joe makes Kathleen a cup of tea when he arrives at her apartment to find her sick with a cold. Nothing like Tea to brighten spirits when sick.
Some favourite Tea and film quotes
“…IT CHANGES BREAD AND WATER INTO TEA AND CAKES…”Mary Poppins ‘A Spoon Full of Sugar’
“Although we may run out of Pan Am coffee, we will never run out of TWA tea.”Kathleen Turner. Crimes of Passion
“Crisis or not, nothing should interfere with tea!”David Niven. Around the world in 80 days
“You should try the tea, indian of course. We’re maybe at war with them but there’s no SENSE in over-reacting, their tea’s the best.”Temuera Morrison in Vertical Limit
Tea without Milk is so uncivilisedDonald Pleasance in The Great Escape
Eddy: The entire British empire was built on cups of tea…
Bacon: Yeah, and look what happened to that.
Eddy: And if you think I’m going to war without one, MATE, you’re mistaken.”Nick Moran -Eddy and Daniel Greenberg Bacon in Love Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
McKenzie: Would you like a cup of tea?
Ben: No, no thank you. No, I’m here on a matter of justice.
McKenzie: Oh, justice. Well I’m afraid that’s a trifle more complex to serve you up than a cup of tea.”Marlon Brando and Donald Sutherland in A Dry White Season
“Mr. Bingley is coming to tea!”Jane Austen
“It is BLASPHEMY to DRINK tea from a paper cup.”Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks
“A cup of tea can solve anything. Bit under the weather? Tea. You left you husband? Tea is the ANSWER ”Emily Browning in Legend
We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, & met the Smiths. – I find all these little parties very pleasant.A letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra 1811
HOT.Jean Luc Picard Captain of The Star Ship Enterprise
A Time Lord in a Dr Who Episode
“JUST PRESUME I’M A PARADOX IN AN ANOMALY, AND GET ON WITH YOUR TEA.”
Buffy in Buffy The Vampire Slayer
“And I want a tea cozy. I don’t know what a tea cozy is, but I want one!”
Who could forget the classic tea party on the ceiling in Mary Poppins? An iconic movie moment is when Burt, the Children and Mary Poppins float up to enjoy a Tea party on the ceiling with Uncle Albert. “I Love to Laugh”, is a song from Walt Disney’s 1964 film composed by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. Uncle Albert has a habit of laughing which makes him float up to the ceiling and when Burt, Mary, and the children laugh too, they also float and decide to have a tea party on the ceiling with him.
And now to music and the influence of Tea. From Lady Ga Ga to The Beatles to Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull and Leonard Cohen, Tea has an influence on song lyrics and song titles. As in Janis Ian- ‘Tea and Sympathy’, Nirvana’s – ‘Pennyroyal Tea’, The Police- ‘Tea in the Sahara’, Belle and Sebastian – ‘For the Price of a Cup of Tea’, Led Zeppelin -‘ Tea for One’, Kacey Musgrave – ‘Cup of Tea’, Camille- ‘Katie’s Tea’, Emelie Autumn-‘Time For Tea’, Supergrass – ‘Whiskey and Green Tea’, ‘Time for Tea’ by Madness and Paul McCartney – ‘English Tea’.
Bring tea for the Tillerman
Steak for the sun
Wine for the women who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
‘Cause while the sinners sin, the children playTea for The Tillerman Cat Stevens
Jethro tull One Brown Mouse
SMILE YOUR LITTLE SMILE — TAKE SOME TEA WITH ME AWHILE.
LOVELY RITA, METER MAID
MAY I INQUIRE DISCREETLY?
WHEN ARE YOU FREE TO TAKE SOME TEA WITH ME?“
Cold Tea Blues Pale Sun, Crescent Moon 1994 by Cowboy Junkies
IF I POUR YOUR CUP, THAT IS FRIENDSHIP.
AND IF I ADD YOUR MILK, THAT’S MANNERS.
BUT IF I STOP THERE, CLAIMING IGNORANCE OF TASTE,
THAT IS TEA.
BUT IF I MEASURE THE SUGAR
TO SATISFY YOUR EXPECTANT TONGUE
THEN THAT IS LOVE,
SITTING UNTOUCHED, AND GROWING COLD.
“and she feeds you tea and oranges
that come all the way from China”Leonard Cohen Suzanne
“IT’S TIME FOR TEA AND MEET THE WIFE”John Lennon The Beatles Good Morning Good Morning
Another classic is ‘The Tea Song’ by Michael Hurley
Turn on the tea and let it brew
I like six cups not one or two
Break out the cups and the honey too
And turn on the tea and let it brew
I don’t care that she’s left me
Just so long as the cupboard’s full of tea
My nerves are shakin’ and my heart is breakin’
That’s just because of all the tea I’ve taken
The poor old Buddha turned into stone
That’s why I drink tea alone
Buddha’s made of stone and his eyes are rubies
But his thoughts and dreams are…
The ubiquitous teacup is never far from us as we watch films, screen programmes on Television, curl up with a book, read stories to our children or enjoy works of art in galleries. Every art gallery has a Tea shop and I know when I come home after being out the first thing I do is put the kettle on.
Tea is synonymous with art and creativity as the eternal personal muse. Tea will calm our frayed nerves, relax us, yet stimulate our brains and at the same time bring a sense of clarity that may inspire creative expression. Meanwhile, we can enjoy tea whilst watching and reading about others who have done just that.
The header Image is by American Impressionist Painter Edward Cucuel 1875-1954
Content Di Baker 2021
Images as cited with the exception of the top image by Di Baker.