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Tea in Literature

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" From a 1919 compilation of Zen koans, 101 Zen Stories

A mad tea party

(from Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
"Take some more tea," the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone, "so I can't take more."
"You mean you can't take less," said the Hatter;
"it's very easy to take more than nothing."

No tea!

(from Rudyard Kipling's poem: Natural Theology)
We had a kettle, we let it leak;
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week....
The bottom is out of the Universe!

Dr Maturin and Captain Aubrey

Maturin and Aubrey are discussing the appropriate punishment for Isaac Wilson (seaman) for having committed the unnatural Crime of Sodomy on the ship's Goat. Concluding their discussion:
'Well,' said Jack, whose anger had died down. 'Perhaps there is something in what you propose.
A dish of tea? You take milk, sir?'
'Goat's milk, sir?'
'Why, I suppose it is.'
'Perhaps without milk, then, if you please. . . '

Gwendolen Fairfax

Gwendolen. [With elaborate politeness.] Thank you. [Aside.] Detestable girl! But I require tea!
Cecily. [Sweetly.] Sugar?
Gwendolen. [Superciliously.] No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more.
[Cecily looks angrily at her, takes up the tongs and puts four lumps of sugar into the cup.]
Cecily. [Severely.] Cake or bread and butter?
Gwendolen. [In a bored manner.] Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.
[Cecily cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the tray.]
Cecily. Hand that to Miss Fairfax.
[Merriman does so, and goes out with footman. Gwendolen drinks the tea and makes a grimace. Puts down cup at once, reaches out her hand to the bread and butter, looks at it, and finds it is cake. Rises in indignation.]
Gwendolen. You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.
Isabella Bird (1831-1904) was an English woman who travelled through Persia in 1890 and always wore two holsters, one of which housed a revolver and a tea-making set, the other milk and dates.
p.117 of No Place for a Lady by Barbara Hodgson - Tales of Adventurous Women Travellers, Greystone books 2003
I read somewhere the other day that men who are too fond of the ladies when they're young generally turn into antique-collectors when they get old. Tea sets and paintings take the place of sex.
(from Some Prefer Nettles, 1928) Junichiro Tanizaki
Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea
Henry Fielding: Love in Several Masques