I grew up in a musical family. I was exposed to a variety of instruments, styles of music, and yes...LPs! Many a day growing up, I would turn the record player on, and listen to my parents extensive collection of vinyl albums. I would listen to music while doing homework, baking, and even gardening. To this day, I still love to listen to music while I cook and bake. Ironically when I am out in nature, I don’t play music…...I listen. I listen to the birds chirping, the rhythm of the rain drops on pavement, the hushed sound of snow falling, and ……….the frequent boisterous barks from Louie The Dog. Most music is pleasant to the ears, has a soothing quality, and can spur creativity. Hhmmmmm, is Louie The Dog trying to help my creativity with his “melodious melodies”? Something to ponder!
The Rhythm Of Tea
Preparing tea can be a noisy undertaking, or a note-filled opportunity. I find the noises accompanying the making of tea, to be very comforting. The association of steeping tea, with its own melodious notes, and listening to music was formed in my early childhood. I remember listening to my mom make a cup of tea in the afternoon, then sit down and play the piano. To this day, the clink of the tea cup against the saucer reminds me of my mother practicing musical scales at the piano.
The making of a cup of tea can be very musical, rhythmic, or melodious. It conjures up a slew of visual imagery, memories and feelings, in addition to my mother’s piano playing. For example, the pouring of the water into the cup reminds me of a stream, spilling down the mountain. Another example is the whistle of the tea kettle reminds me of a train whistle and the various exciting places I have traveled to by train. Lastly, the stirring of the tea and the clang of the teaspoon against the tea cup reminds me of tea parties with friends and family, and the ebb and flow of happy conversations around the tea table. If one listens to the noises surrounding steeping tea, one will find that there really is a rhythm to tea.
The Beat Of The Tea Dance
Tea dances, called the “dansant” in French and “tanztee” in German, combined music, the consumption of tea, and of course dancing. As the popularity of afternoon tea grew in the late 1800’s, dancing became a natural addition to afternoon tea. By the 1920’s tea dances became a popular social meeting place. In fact, they were often another means used by mothers to present their eligible daughters, or brides, to society.
These unique dances often occurred in hotels, restaurants, or gardens. They would occur at night, as well as in the late afternoon, and tea was always served, often including light fare. Bath, England was a famous site for elaborate dances that were held in gardens or assembly rooms. The Palm Court, situated inside the Waldorf Hotel in London, was another famous location for tea dances.
Orchestras played while people emulated a very popular early 1900’s dance called the Tango. The Tango was first seen in a London stage production of “The Sunshine Girl.” Due to the rigorousness of the sultry Tango, womens’ skirts had to be slit, to allow for more freedom of movement. In addition, a very popular song of the mid 1920's was actually a nod to tea dances, it was called “Tea for Two”. The 1925 song was written and composed by Vincent Young and Irving Caesar, and made famous in the Broadway musical No, No, Nanette.
The Flow Of The Music On The Brain
The brain is a muscle and exercising muscles help them stay in shape. Music is the exercising equipment for the brain. Scientists at John Hopkins Medical are trying to detect and understand how our brains “hear” music. They have concluded, thus far, that when music is played, it emits vibrations in airwaves. These airwaves end up in the ear canal. The eardrum plays a crucial role in registering the musical vibrations. After the vibrations are felt by the ear drum, they are rearranged as electrical signals. These electrical signals then travel to the brain stem through the auditory nerve. The brain changes the electrical signals into what we perceive as music. This is amazing how we perceive music!
According to research conducted at John Hopkins, “listening to music gives the brain a complete workout”. The research concludes that listening to music could possibly: reduce anxiety, decrease pain and blood pressure, increase quality of sleep, mental alertness may be enhanced, aid in memory recall, and affect mood. (I am not a medical clinician, and am therefore not dispensing medical advice).
Listening to music challenges the brain in several ways. New music can force the brain to make sense out of the new sound it is hearing. Music has a strong mathematical component to it’s beats, and rhythms. A John Hopkins otolaryngologist (a doctor who specializes in the care/treatment of the head and neck) states “your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of it (music).”
Music is found all around us. It is in the ebb and flow of the ocean, the stirring of the wind in the trees, and the chirping of the birds. It can also be heard in the whistle of the tea kettle, the clanging of the tea spoon against the tea cup, or the pouring of the tea. Next time you make a cup of tea, listen. Listen to the sounds that accompany the making of tea. Your brain and your ears will thank you for the intentionality of listening to the musicality of steeping a cup of tea.
Enjoy life’s music,
Atlas Obscura and Gastronomy Obscura. Tea Dance.
Pettigrew, Jane. Reviving Tea Dances. TeaTime Magazine, July/August 2013, August 6, 1999.
Pratt, James Norwood. Tea Dictionary. Tea Society Press, 2010.
Medicine, John Hopkins. Keep Your Brain Young With Music. Blog article
Ukers, William. Annotated by Pratt, James Norwood. The Romance Of Tea: Tea & Tea Drinking Through Sixteen Hundred Years. Benjamin Press, 2017.
About the Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!