Three Lessons from hot tea and a WWI song |”Tea for Two”

by Naomi Birdmarisa-harris-sRj5-M5MREo-unsplash

Tell me you like tea. Even just a little bit. Tea is my lifeline. It helps me be a better mom. It is the quiet companion through not-so-quiet days. Go brew some coffee if you must. What we really are after is small glimmers of enjoyment and sustenance, right? Today’s song prompts just that.

When you hear the phrase “Tea for Two” you might have memories of the 1950 Doris Day film Tea for Two, or the 1930 and 1940 films of No, No, Nanette, or the musical of the same name, or the orchestral work that uses the tune. (It’s delightful, and yes links are included at the end.) Choosing to feature this song now was something we arrived at because of trying to celebrate Nathan’s and my mutual love of tea. As such, it’s only fitting that this song uses tea as the axis around which a couple can celebrate their mutual love of one other.

This affinity for tea drinking I must credit to our “more than friends” phase. Nathan and I would look for any excuse to spend more time together. Chat. Wait for the tea to steep. Talk some more. Let the tea cool long enough to drink it. Play a game. You certainly don’t want to guzzle it. Talk some more. Unfortunately heating the water was never a time factor because my parents had instant hot. Convenient, but so unromantic. When the tea was done, we were out of excuses and it was time to say goodbye. Phooey.

As we made our homes together over the years, moving frequently, we tried to own mostly multi-purpose kitchen appliances and held off on having an electric or stovetop tea kettle. We just boiled the water in a small saucepan. Earlier this year, thanks to the routine of regularly hosting a gathering of friends from church, we bought a nice one. It was only three times the price of the cheaper ones, and we love it about 17 times more. Bargain! Its clear glass shines on the counter top. The blue light a signal that something yummy is on its way. Perhaps we’re easily amused.

It is clear that we have now established ourselves as tea lovers among our peers. A Recent gift from some friends included a giant tea mug with leaf strainer included, as well as our family’s new favorite toy: “Mr. Tea”  – a person-shaped silicone figure that holds the tea leaves and hangs on the edge of the mug.

We drink tea any time of the year, but of course the chilly weather of winter and fall is when warmth is most sought-after.   Upon finding this week’s song, I knew it would be perfect to feature in our October collection of “Loose Leaves.” The cutesy lyrics and lilting melody combine for a feel-good ballad of romance. It isn’t really about tea as much as it’s about the person with whom you share that tea, and the space in which you partake, and the life surrounding that ritual. It’s about the romantic comedy that we hope is a little bit a part of everyone’s journey. And it’s about the attention to little things, the trivia of history and how that brings so much enhancement to the present.

Take a note or three from tea and “Tea for Two”:

  1. We all need something to get us through hard times. (See above. I love tea.) Maybe your tea is something else. As a WW I soldier, composer Vincent Youmans penned the melody for this fun lilting tune.
  2. It doesn’t have to be a big long ordeal. Be a tea snob if you must, but the barre need not be high to make a cup that does the trick. Often the best wins are spontaneous and simple. Youmans song came to the rescue in 1924 when he and Irving Caesar were working on saving the struggling musical No, No, Nanette during its pre-Broadway tour. Vincent made Irving write some words on the spot and loved them so much he wouldn’t let Irving go back to revise them. “Tea for Two” made the show a success.
  3. A little bit can go a long way. One teaspoon. That’s all you need of loose tea leaves in order to brew hours of delicious companionship. A few minutes of time shared visiting over tea can make a meaningful impact in someone’s life. And sometimes just one song plus one hour can lead to an entirely new and delightful composition. By 1926, this popular tune had been used in a Russian operetta and a colleague of composer Dmitri Shostakovich bet him 100 rubles that he couldn’t re-orchestrate the tune in under an hour. Forty-five minutes later Shostakovich had earned 100 rubles and begun his charming Opus 16.

Tea for two. Two for tea. A sweet song and a simple beverage symbolizing a commitment to look someone in the eye and say, “Let’s spend time together. Let’s build something together. Let’s carve out a space to reminisce, to dream, to notice our blessings, and to just be.”

Listen to Nathan and Naomi’s rendition of “Tea for Two”


History of TeaI didn’t really use anything from this for this article, but if you’ve read this far you might like to peruse it

About the song “Tea for Two”

About the various No, No, Nanette productions

About the 1950 film Tea for Two

Video of an orchestra playing Shostakovich’s Op. 16 at the 1997 BBC Proms

Watch the Carion Wind Quintet perform the Shostakovich

(Speaking of warm drinks, Nathan’s cousin just started selling a line of adorable enamel mugs. Check here!)


SongNotes from the Birds is a collection of songs and articles, issued each month via blog posts and good old-fashioned mailboxes. Below is article 3 of 3 for October’s theme, “Loose Leaves.
Click here for the full intro to this month’s theme!
Click here to read article one and hear “Autumn Leaves”
Click here to read article two and hear “I Could Write a Book”

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