How the Movies Communicate the Heart of Tea

Apr 9, 2013 by




I recently watched Miss Potter for the first time. Enjoyed the movie, thoroughly (Ewan McGregor sings, how could I not?). A classic story of English aristocracy, this interpretation of Beatrix Potter showcased many of the values I hold dear. These included:

  • a commitment to creative work despite the objections of others, even one’s own family.
  • a love for farming and preservation of the land.
  • living through heartache and coming out stronger on the other side.

But another value I hold dear that may not have been as easily noticed by other viewers was the constant presence of the teapot.

Scene after scene, whenever the characters gathered for any conversation, they included tea. Nowhere did one see the string of the teabag hanging over the side of a mug, but instead the props included the beautiful teapots, cups, trays, and silver of the time. Taking tea was a daily event and inviting someone to tea at the spur of the moment or for a well-planned out event was commonplace.

Now, many of you might remind me the English aristocracy employed servants. Of course they could offer hospitality at a drop-of-the-hat. Fair enough. I think, however, there is another way to look at it.

Statistically, unless you are reading this from a war-torn country trying to survive genocide, those of us living in the 21st-century are healthier and wealthier than ever before. The resources available at our fingertips are staggering. True, our cultural norms and financial priorities mean the majority of us no longer employ household servants. However, the reality more often reflects a lack of energy and resources to practice hospitality because our energy and resources are going other places instead.

Learning to brew a simple pot of tea and offering a little-touch-of-something to go along with it is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to offer hospitality on an on-going basis. Books and movies are filled with such examples. Here’s a few movie favorites (mostly taken from books) that come to mind:

  • Mr. Tumnus preparing traditional English tea for Lucy in Narnia. Notice Lucy’s cup and the toast cooling rack. Did you know the English cool their toast first? (Do you still do this? It’s hard to imagine in a country with weather such as yours!).
  • Birdie hosting Kathleen Kelly and Christina over tea and scones in You’ve Got Mail while sharing about her love affair with the owner of Spain.
  • Gandalf wanting nothing but tea despite Bilbo’s fluttering about as a host offering everything else under the sun during the opening of The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo and Gandalf also hold their first major discussion about the ring over tea.
  • Anne Shirley’s complete delight to host her dear friend, Diana, for tea and the utter devastation when Diana gets drunk instead in Anne of Green Gables.

Did you have a favorite tea scene come to mind while reading this post? We’d love to hear about it in the comments. How are you able to practice hospitality quickly and easily?

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  1. Beth

    I can’t think of a movie at the moment, but I wanted to let you know I found a “Teavana” store locally. They sell loose tea, cups of tea and all sorts of tea stuff. I am definitely going to be asking for some items for Christmas from here! They have a tea cup and strainer set that looks especially nice. I prefer a simple black tea. I was thinking I’d start with some English Breakfast, what do you think?

  2. Beth

    Oh! I thought of a movie, and also book, that mention tea. I love the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. I love how Arthur Dent, an Englishman lost in space, complains that he can not find a decent cup of tea anywhere in the galaxy. 🙂

  3. I haven’t seen Miss Potter yet, but look forward to it – and will look with tea-loving eyes!

    My favorite tea scene is in the Princess Diaraies, when the young girl has just discovered who she is and has tea with her Grandmother. I teach a class on tea etiquette, and if I have young girls in my class, we watch this scene and find as many “oops” etiquette bloopers as possible. It’s a hoot!

  4. Yay, Beth! So glad to hear you may invest in some special items for a daily tea ritual. If you like traditional black, then yes, most English Breakfast teas are quite lovely.

    Teavana should give you a sample of anything you buy, so that’s always my advice. Try (and smell!) before you buy. It’s like anything else, you learn as you go and discover what you continually reach for.

    Thanks for the Hitchhiker tip!

  5. Oh, Stephanie, love the Princess Diaries example! What a great idea, to use that scene as an example when teaching etiquette to the young girls. I think I might steal your idea. (Mom, maybe you should, too 😉 ).

  6. Just about any episode of Downton Abbey will have at least one scene with conversation over tea. I especially note that the Dowager Countess entertains over tea. The costuming is beautiful, as is the silver, the china and the service of tea. I’d love to know the china pattern.

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