Top Tea Moments in Popular Culture

Top Tea Moments in Popular Culture

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Beth Kanter
May 13, 2016
(Image credit: Emily Han)

Tea. It's a drink with jam and bread, a beverage sipped by characters in Jane Austen novels, and required drinking on (or while watching) Downton Abbey. And tea's role in Western pop culture doesn't stop there: Down the rabbit hole and back up again to strange new worlds and beyond, here are some of our favorite tea cameos.

1. Mary Poppins

Ever the proper Brit, Mary Poppins knows teatime waits for no one — even flying nannies. So when laughing bouts carry Uncle Albert, Bert, Jane, and Michael up to the ceiling right when it's time for the first pour, Mary does the only sensible thing and brings tea up to them. They then enjoy a practically perfect tea around a floating table dressed in a yellow tablecloth and magic.

2. Hello

Some numb heartbreak with a pint of Ben & Jerry's; others turn to the bottle. But if you are superstar Adele, you drown sorrows of the heart at the bottom of a bone china teacup.

In the beginning of the emotional, sepia-toned "Hello" video, we watch the British pop diva light the gas stove, set the kettle atop the flame, and place a teabag in her elegant teacup. It's almost as if the strength she needs to belt out the haunting chorus comes from those tea leaves. The video is a raw and expressive voyage through love, loss, and the power of a hearty brew.

A bonus real-life Adele tea moment, and a total 180 from her careful Hello cuppa, comes when the singer takes the passenger seat on James Corden's Carpool Karoke. About two minutes into the now-viral episode, a bit of Adele's tea spills on her brand new coat. The "Rolling in the Deep" singer does what any self-respecting megastar would do — she chugs the remaining contents of her white mug. Note to producers: Please pimp her next ride with a cup holder and a to-go mug.

3. Grey Gardens

Big Edie's bedridden "Tea for Two" in the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens takes the prize for campiest rendition of the ditty from the 1925 musical No, No, Nanette. Clad in her housecoat and a striped floppy hat, the socialite-turned-hoarder-slash-shut-in gets most of the words right as she croons along with the record player in the trash-filled room she shares with her daughter in their decrepit Hamptons mansion. It's hard to imagine a more unsanitary setting for high tea than Grey Gardens, but the conversation with the Beales women would surely sparkle.

4. Alice in Wonderland

Down the rabbit hole, the riddles are ridiculous, the dishes dirty, and the host, well, he's mad. It's also always teatime. The Mad Hatter's tea party remains one of literature's most psychedelic gatherings, leaving readers wondering if March Hare has filled the cups with something more than just tea. Alice leaves less than amused, calling the gathering "the stupidest tea party I ever was at in all my life."

5. Star Trek

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise, always orders his brew the same way: "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." Because chamomile will not boldly take you where no one has gone before.

6. The Brady Bunch

Grab your bell-bottoms for a totally far-out tea ceremony in season three of The Brady Bunch. Aunt Jenny, played by the fantastic Imogene Coca, comes to town to give Jan a 22-minute beauty-is-skin-deep lesson. While she is there, Aunt Jenny schools the family in Japanese tea ceremonies, complete with a tutorial on slurping.

7. The Mentalist

Patrick Jane is known for his ability to solve crimes with his keen powers of observation on the television show The Mentalist. He also is known for doing so with a cup of tea in hand. Tea, he wisely observes, is like a hug in a cup.

8. Steel Magnolias

This list would not be complete without a nod to sweet tea. The last word about the beloved iced potion goes to the fabulous Dolly Parton as Truvy in Steel Magnolias: "It's the house wine of the South." Amen, Dolly. Amen.

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