Once upon a time I wrote an article in which I tried to determine how many people in the world drink tea on a given day. I arrived at the tentative conclusion that the number was just over two billion. But I’m no statistician so that’s a very tentative figure. It might be interesting to come up with an estimate of how many people have ever consumed tea, but that’s a task that might be too much for my modest abilities.
In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to look at a few well-known historical figures who drank tea. In my first article on the topic I looked at a number of U.S. presidents who were known to drink tea and the late Russian leader, Vladimir Lenin, as well as some leaders you’d assume were tea drinkers but actually were not.
One of the great cheerleaders for tea who deserves a mention, as well as a rather avid tea drinker, was the great English writer Samuel Johnson. Who drank tea to a point that some might consider excessive. I’d say more but I already have so I’ll just point you to that article.
While the historical record shows that novelist Henry James was a fan of tea, it’s more interesting to note how many times he mentioned it in his writings. Such as this oft-repeated snippet from The Portrait of a Lady, “Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Tea turns up so often in James’ works that it inspired at least one in-depth research paper – Tea and Henry James’s ‘Scenic Method’ in The Awkward Age and The Spoils of Poynton.
Jean Luc Picard
Okay, so he’s a fictional character, specifically the captain of the starship Enterprise on TV’s second incarnation of Star Trek. But Captain Picard’s renowned request for “Earl Grey, hot” has become a well-known cultural catchphrase that’s done its part to raise awareness of tea.
Here’s one that combines a great fictional figure (Frankenstein’s monster) with a great historical figure, the actor who became famous for his portrayal of said monster. Look here for a number of shots of Karloff drinking tea, both in and out of that famous makeup.
See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.
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