I am enchanted whenever tea plays a role in a story and I am always on the lookout for mention of tea in books and articles I read.
The calming effect of tea is frequently represented in writing, in both fiction and non-fiction. Think of the ‘first aid’ scene where tea is administered after a shock. Tea also provides a shoulder to cry on – or to confess on. Offered to a friend tea shows the level of a character’s empathy.
I love the following scene from ‘A Pocketful of Years‘ by Frances Cleary, one of my favourite old-time writers. Tea is the means by which Mrs Kingi, an aging Maori woman, is able to cheer her friend, the younger Mrs Wiki, and thereby avert a crisis. Before the tea scene Mrs Wiki is confrontational. The town is in a great big mess according to Mrs Wiki. She is angry about recent violence in the town (and in her own family) and she is critical of her friend, Mrs Kingi, who is obviously not doing enough to stop it.
“It’s plain to see you don’t get around as much as you used to for it seems to me you misses a lot that goes on in this district, Mrs Kingi, either that or you turns a blind eye to what goes on beneath your nose … now you take no notice.” *
An argument must surely erupt!
“Giving her straight look I inform this woman I’m not as young as I used to be … and I have better things to do than get mixed up with petty squabbles …”.*
At her friends directness Mrs Wiki is suitably deflated and she herself is in need of consolation which she recieves from Mrs Kingi in the form of encouragement over a cup of tea – accompanied by cake.
“I pat [her] back again, assure her [Mrs Wiki] she won’t (become like her violent Uncle) because there’s too much laughter inside her to keep mind angry for long, then cheer her up with a cup of tea and apple shortcake and she goes off happy, saying, “Mrs Kingi, you’s wonderful help to me, always smoothing things out with your wise words and giving me different points of view.” *
Mrs Wiki is in a completely different frame of mind after the tea scene. Her anger has dissipated and she “goes off happy” able to see things from another point of view.
Sometimes I can be like Mrs Wiki. The really big issues, violence in our culture, poverty, red-tape, injustice, the empty RTD can on the berm start to get to me. Someone is to blame for all this! Someone else is not doing enough.
Mrs Kingi, over a cup of tea, tells her friend off and cheers her up at the same time. The angry flames that threatened to burn between neighbour and neighbour are deprived of fuel.
Tea makes the world a better place if brewed correctly.
* Frances Cleary, A Pocketful of Years, William Collins (New Zealand) LTD, Auckland 1975.