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12th May 2010
As long as there has been tea, people have been writing about our favourite drink. From it's health-giving properties to the ritual of afternoon tea, there is a quote for every tea-time occasion. Here we round up some of the best...
Ancient oriental wisdom on tea often focuses on the spiritual and health-giving properties of the brew…
Tang dynasty poet Lu Tung said of tea, “The first bowl moistens my lips and throat. The second bowl breaks my loneliness. The third bowl searches my barren brain… The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration. The fifth cup… purifies my bones and makes me feel light. The sixth cup links me to the realms of the immortals.”
Chinese poet Lu-Wah believed that “Tea is water bewitched” while T'ien Yiheng reasoned that "Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world." This could still be true today!
"Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary," is the sound reasoning in a Chinese proverb while another ancient saying declares, "Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one." According to this Japanese proclaimation, “If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty."
And although Buddhist monk Thich Nat Hahn was born in 1926 his advice could have come from the 1st century BC and is still relevant today. “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves, slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” 16th Century poet John Milton wrote of tea, "One sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams.” Wise words indeed.
‘Have A Cuppa Tea’ by The Kinks with lyrics that declare,
“Whatever the situation, whatever the race or creed,
Tea knows no segregation, no class nor pedigree
It knows no motivations, no sect or organisation,
It knows no one religion,
Nor political belief.”
While in ‘Smither Jones’, mod band The Jam sing,
"Put on the kettle and make some tea,
It's all a part of feeling groovy."
Current indie band British Sea Power understand the cuppa’s restorative powers too, "Like rock music, there are times when a cup of tea can save your life.”
And although Debbie Harry’s image is that of a tough-talking New York punk, she showed her softer side in 1979 release Dreaming…
"You asked me what's my pleasure, a movie or a measure?
I'll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreaming."
From romance gone wrong, exam stress and work woes – nothing soothes like a cup of tea and authors, philosophers and literary characters through the ages agree…
Tea was being hailed as a calming drink in Britain as early as the 1600s when poet and politician Edmund Waller wrote,
“Tea does our fancy aid,
Repress those vapours which the head invade
And keeps that palace of the soul serene.”
"There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea,” agreed 18th Century philosopher Bernard-Paul Heroux.
Even literary boy wizard Harry Potter experienced tea’s calming qualities first hand, “Harry found the tea... seemed to burn away a little of the fear fluttering in his chest".
And you’d do well to remember this anonymous quotes when time are tough, "Remember the teapot - it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings!"
Think too about a quote from ‘The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft,’ where moustachioed novelist George Gissing wrote, “The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose.”
Georgian-era clergyman and writer Sydney Smith worried that, "I always fear that creation will expire before teatime." Smith seems to be a great fan of the brew. “Thank God for tea!” he wrote. “What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”
When imbibing, ensure you indulge in ‘A Proper Tea’, described by AA Milne as, "Much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards."
French gatronome, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in his 1825 work, ‘The Physiology of Taste’ about the new trend for taking afternoon tea. “Another novelty is the tea-party, an extraordinary meal in that, being offered to persons that have already dined well, it supposes neither appetite nor thirst, and has no object but distraction, no basis but delicate enjoyment.”
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” From Henry James’ novel ‘The Portrait of a Lady’.
Rupert Brooke’s famous lines in ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ are still as poignant as when they were written during WW1.
“Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?”
Journalist Sarah Engler summed up the charm of tea in an article in Real Simple magazine in 2006. “As the centerpiece of a cherished ritual, it's a talisman against the chill of winter, a respite from the ho-hum routine of the day.”
But perhaps the most famous quotation on tea is it’s reputation as ‘the cup that cheers’ coined by 18th century poet and hymn writer William Cowper.
“Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa around,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.”
American poet Terri Guillemets advises that, "The perfect temperature for tea is two degrees hotter than just right." But this depends on personal taste, of course!
According to Russian writer, Alexander Pushkin (author of Eugene Onegin) “Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth.” However, instead of offering your guests the sugar bowl, how about Henry Fielding’s recommendation that, “Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea”?
As to strength, “All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes” believes George Orwell in ‘A Nice Cup of Tea,’ an article that appeared in the London Evening Standard in 1946. This opinion was anchored in fact as pensioners were entitled to larger tea rations than those of working age during the austere years.
Finally, if you were to entertain C S Lewis, ensure that the pot is never-ending. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” said The Chronicles of Narnia author.
From putting the world to rights…
“Come along inside... We'll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.” Kenneth Grahame
…to gauging personality…
“A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Former American First Lady Nancy Reagan
…tea is truly an all-purpose drink with the literary back-up to prove it’s position!
Former British Prime Minister William Gladstone wrote, "If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you."
But let’s leave the last words to English dramatist Sir Arthur Pinero: “While there’s tea there’s hope.”
The latest images of tea fans in action...
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