There’s nothing like tea and a good book. The Grand Dame of Mystery, Agatha Christie, wrote her delicious little mysteries from 1920 to her death in 1976. Not as long as mankind has been enjoying tasty tea, so folks had to read something else at tea time before 1920.
A few months ago, having never read her novels, I set a goal of reading the dozens of paperback versions we have on hand of many of her titles. Having seen several movie and television adaptations of these works, I was curious to see how they compared with the written word. Let’s face it, reading a book is usually very different from watching the movie of that book. Sometimes very different.
Case in point is the novel The Mirror Crack’d. In the Rock Hudson/Elizabeth Taylor version, there was a big scene at Gossington Hall where Kim Hunter, a younger rival actress, shows up and lauds her youth and much more svelte figure over “Marina Gregg” (Taylor). This is not in the book. What was in the book and not in the movie is the secretary Ella Zielinsky declaring “I can’t stand Chinese tea.” Huh? Which one? There are many.
Things like this can be quite puzzling to a tea-loving reader. We have to know the author’s culture to a certain extent. This was true of F. Scott Fitzgerald writing about those massively wealthy people who could buy a $100,000 strand of pearls to hang around the wife’s neck. And it is true of someone who was born and raised in England, where tea is as much a part of life as breathing. But tea in England at the time Ms. Christie wrote this novel in the early 1960s was not exactly as it is today.
So what was tea drinking like in England in the late 1950s to early 1960s? They seemed to serve either what they called “Chinese tea” or what they called “Indian tea.” As far as I can tell, this means either Camellia Sinensis or Camellia Sinensis assamica. And it means black tea. So a guess would be Keemun or Lapsang Souchong for the Chinese tea and Assam for the Indian tea.
These are the thoughts that come to mind for this tea drinker as I read. I also tend to look for tea references in these books, whether they are by British authors or not. Is that obsessive? If it is, I kinda think it’s a good kind of obsession. Ah, tea!
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