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Tea in the Movies

Tea and a Movie!
Tea and a Movie!

Confession time: I’m a movie addict. Romance, comedy, drama, mystery, historic, sci-fi, romantic comedy, dramatic romance, mysterious sci-fi, romantic historic, sci-fi comedy… well, you get the idea!

We can learn a lot about life and lifestyles from these movies. Some try to depict how we really live. Others show how they think we live. Still others show how they think we should live. When it comes to tea, most movies made in Hollywood definitely portray tea drinking as how they think we do it, not how any serious tea drinker does it. However, movies and programs made in countries where tea drinking is regarded as an important aspect of daily life (for example, Britain) portray tea drinking in a manner that reflects this more serious view.

An example of a Hollywood movie is “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan’s character, sick with a cold or flu, gets a cup of tea, aided by Tom Hank’s character. The process consisted of pouring hot water from the whistling tea kettle into a mug and dunking in a bag. The bag was jerked up and down a few times (presumably to help the brewing process) and then left in the mug with the string and tag hanging over the side (most likely to be sure the audience knew that the mug contained tea, not coffee or other beverage).

Now, before I go further, it’s time for another confession: I used to think this was the way to make tea. Yes, it’s true. I was a bag-dunker. I was also a bag-squeezer (assuring that I got every drop of those bitter dregs). I was young. I was in college. I was unduly influenced by my addiction to Hollywood movies…

Then, I started watching British programs and movies. “To the Manor Born,” “Inspector Morse” (especially the episode “The Ghost in the Machine” where the hostess asks Morse if he wants Indian or Chinese), and “Monarch of the Glen,” to name a few. These showed a much different approach to tea. I saw a teapot that had been pre-warmed with hot water. I saw loose tea being spooned into a teapot that was then carried over to the stove where the kettle was just reaching a perfect boil. I saw the steaming water being poured in over those dried leaves, so full of flavor and the promise of a delightful taste experience. Epiphany! This was true tea enjoyment. This was true appreciation of a beverage that is cherished throughout the world, starting in China thousands of years ago. This was how I wanted to experience tea – not just as a bag full of fannings or dust (minute tea pieces left over after the dried tea leaves had been removed) dunked in hot water, with the string and tag left hanging over the side.

Of course, in British movies, tea is also portrayed as an integral part of life, not just something to have when one isn’t feeling well, the way Hollywood shows. (Remember the scene in “Working Girl” when Harrison Ford’s character offers a totally zonked out Melanie Griffith’s character a cup of tea because, as he says, it always sounds good to him when he’s in her condition?) Several British films made during or shortly after World War II show tea being readily available in railway station snack rooms and in tea rooms. The tea is usually already brewed and kept warm in a large dispenser (like a large coffee urn) with a spigot. Sugar and milk are routine additions. Something about this image seems very welcoming. To the British, nothing says hospitality like a good cup of tea.

Since I have switched to this more British attitude, I feel more hospitable, too. Try it out. Have a few friends over for tea and see if you don’t catch that feeling.


A.C. also posts great articles on her own blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

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