When you have been involved in tea for any length of time, you’ll see the same old quotes come up time and time again. And they are usually from authors.
Have you ever wondered: Who ARE these people? In what way are they qualified to make pronouncements about tea? Is there a dark, sinister undertone? Are they likely to pop around to my place for a cuppa? and various other burning questions.
If you don’t know, it’s most likely because you were too lazy to find out. Luckily for you, I have completed the extensive research required, to bring you these facts that you can take the credit for next time you are showing off in tea circles.
Grab yourself a cuppa, and let’s get going:
#1 “Where there’s tea, there’s hope”
This is by Arthur Wing Pinero (1855-1934), an actor and dramatist. Writing around the time of Gilbert and Sullivan, he was considered their equal but his work fell rapidly out of favour throughout the 1920s and 30s. At the height of his popularity his hit play Sweet Lavender ran for 663 consecutive performances in 1885, and in that, a character called Horace declares “In English society, where there’s tea, there’s hope”. The English bit is usually left off the various mugs and posters you see.
Another character in the play, Dick, also says at one point “Spoonful of whiskey in your tea?”, which I suspect is where the modern phrase “Don’t be a Dick” comes from.
In the same play another character, Minnie, utters these immortal words upon seeing a tea service set up and placing her head against the tea pot: “Tea! Hot! I must take to tea violently, now that I’m going to be an old maid. Tomorrow I’ll buy a kitten” which clearly inspired the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, although they left out the bit about the kitten and added specificity of tea type and urgency.
#2 “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me”
Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) knew a thing or two about long books, although it was his BFF, one J.R.R. Tolkien who really pushed the boat out on those.
Lewis did write the Narnia books as well as a truckload of other stuff. He also used to bore people rigid with his religion by all accounts: he was a reformed atheist, and used to bang on about it endlessly.
So, was he right person to make this remark? Why not? He made it as lay person to tea, but books were something he knew a bit about.
#3 “Tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities will always be the favorite beverage of the intellectual”
Alright, so you don’t often see this on a tea shirt, but it’s one of my favourites. Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) is most famous for Confessions of an English Opium Eater. It’s also misquoted.
It could take weeks to give you the rundown on this brilliant essayist and scholar, so lets get it over with in Hollywood form: “Its the story of one man, abused and abandoned by his family, addicted to drugs and on the edge of society, who overcomes the odds due to his incredible abilities and scholasticism”. Perhaps wait for the DVD release.
The whole quote is: “For tea, though ridiculed by those who are naturally of coarse nerves, or are become so from wine-drinking, and are not susceptible of influence from so refined a stimulant, will always be the favourite beverage of the intellectual.”
In his best known work, I have also found this gem: “Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; candles at four o’clock, warm hearthrugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies to the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.”
For this alone, De Quincey gets the thumbs-up from me.
#4 “All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.”
George Orwell is one of my favorite authors (1903-1950) and I have written extensively about him, and years ago I even made a You Tube video based on one of his essays. His best known books are Animal Farm and 1984, but pretty well everything he wrote is exceptional.
His essay A Nice Cup of Tea is often quoted on tea circles, although often woefully out of context.
The quote above is unusual, in that it is more about growing old, but for me, I like the sense of continuity – the assumption that drinking tea is a lifelong pursuit. And anything he says goes as far as I’m concerned.
#5 “A cup of tea would restore my normality”
If you haven’t read everything ever written by Douglas Adams (1952-2001) then stop reading this and do it now. I’ll be here when you get back.
Like Orwell, Adams was taken too soon, and also like Orwell, every word he wrote was gold. He rose to prominence writing Doctor Who scripts, which should be enough for anyone, but then had massive success with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
While he is responsible for some brilliant characters, such as Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged and Dirk Gently, it’s his Arthur Dent that steals the show: the star of the HHG books, a man who once nearly causes annihilation in his search for a really good cup of tea.
#6 It is teatime right now, somewhere. Or anywhere
Okay, so that quote is actually mine (1965-), but in my defence, I’ve seen at least a dozen places use it, sometimes with attribution and sometimes not.
Incidentally, I came up with it when I had a little widget to put a quote on each blog post, and originally the last word was “everywhere”, but I misquoted myself and the misquote stuck.
So, that’s a roundup of some leading literary figures (well, five out of six) and their tea quotes. I hope you found it educational, and if you didn’t drink a cuppa while you read it, then shame on you. You’ve really let yourself down.