Being one of the oldest known drinks in history, tea has undeniably run its course through time, evolving based on people’s preference. From an ordinary drink people enjoy in their spare time, tea has become a staple in the majority of the world; because of this, no wonder tea has eventually found its way to popular culture. From the digital lingo of ‘spilling the tea’ to the Instagram-able and trendy boba tea drink that dominated Asian countries like a storm, it penetrated mainstream media and found its way to popular culture that further elevated its game of fame.
The brand Lipton in the year 2014, released the “Be More Tea” commercial featuring a muppet sipping tea. People quickly picked up the image, and became a viral meme, where the famous ‘spilling the tea’ expression originated. From then on, it became a universal idiom for telling issues and sharing controversies.
However, as in the literal drink, tea had its long history of exposure in popular culture.
Perhaps nothing can beat the hallmark created by Lewis Carroll with his characters in Alice in Wonderland for having one outrageous tea party. Alice found the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse in a sleepy and messy tea party that felt appropriate for an afternoon and yet surreal and extravagant at the same time. The well-known classic inspired two adaptations, one in 1951, which was an animated film by Walt Disney Productions, and the most recent one in 2010 with the iconic trio: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, and director Tim Burton.
In 1964, Julie Andrews’ classic musical, Marry Poppins, was released, serving some fun tea moments on-screen, implying that tea time is nothing but boring! Of course, this got a remake in 2018 with English actress Emily Blunt, offering the same jolly take on the classic, and it never failed to showcase tea time as an enjoyable moment to share.
Winnie the Pooh joins the tea club as this adorable yellow bear Disney creation also has some liking with tea. While the popular character is much more known for his inclination towards honey, his group of friends also enjoys a good tea moment. The last quarter of the 90s has also seen some iconic tea moments both on television and in movies. Among these are 1963s Dr. Who and 80s Star Trek, where Captain Jean-Luc Picard drops the famous line, “Earl Grey. Hot” – referring to his tea preference.
Who could never learn to love earl grey even if you’re traveling light-years away and traversing galaxies? Earl grey is one of the most famous tea flavors in the world – perhaps, even in the universe – along with a lot more other tea flavors there are. Therefore, it’s not rocket science (pun intended) that the show’s writers included the now-famous earl grey tea in this sci-fi classic.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, and the gaming realm was served some powerful tea treat with Super Mario’s Super Princess Peach released for Nintendo DS. In this particular release, Super Princess Peach had her Vibe Tea, a boost drink that increases her Vibe meter, thus improving her shots.
From gaming to television, Wendy William’s talk show, which launched in 2018, showed America what better way to start the day but with a cup of tea. The segment where she drinks her tea and ‘spills some tea’ became a famous television moment that it proliferated memes and GIFs that continuously circulate the web even up to this day.
From the 2010 premiere of the hit English show Downtown Abbey, Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley, became an icon of tea drinking in the show, portraying such moment as a cultural phenomenon in the country.
When it comes to breaking records in pop music, no one seems to do it better, like pop star Adele. In her hit Hello music video, the songstress brought a tea moment on screen. The scene portrays a melancholic afternoon with tea, as Adele in the music video reminisces the romantic past. The video broke records upon its premiere and became a sensational moment in pop culture.
In a 2016 episode of Carpool Karaoke in the hit television show Late, Late Show with James Corden, the Someone Like You singer also brought a cup of tea with her, showing how much tea culture there is with the Brits.
Tea, in its different flavor and form, continue to become a universal drink. As shown in the past, it will continue to evolve with time, retain its simple formula for an ordinary afternoon tea party with friends, or as some goody treat in a boba tea form that will remain a favorite drink in some parts of the world.