Tea and TV

Yesterday, I posted this picture to my Facebook page as a tip of FullSizeRenderthe hat to the series finale of The Mentalist, which ended its seven season run this week.

If you are a fan of the show, you know that Patrick Jane’s ever-present cup of tea was as fundamental to the development of his character as was his nemesis Red John or his sidekick Teresa Lisbon. Jane’s fondness for tea not only depicted his gentility despite his carnival upbringing, but it was used as a sign of his disregard for boundaries. He was frequently making cups of tea at crime scenes, often right by a victim’s dead body. Sometimes, Jane used the offer of tea as a way to elicit information, both the overt and the subtle, from witnesses and victims.

I love The Mentalist, mainly because I love great storytelling and I think that Bruno Heller told a great story. Great television, I believe, requires both micro and macro storytelling skills. You’ve got to develop a great show each week, but you’ve also got to have some larger narrative you cultivate with each episode. Jane’s fondness for tea played into both the micro and macro stories well.

I love tea. This is the bottom drawer of my pantry:

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Coffee’s fine. I like the smell of it better than the actual taste. But tea? Tea suits me.

Can you see how many different types of tea I have? Rooibos. Irish Breakfast. English Breakfast. Green. White. Yerba Mate. Peppermint. Spearmint. Green Tea with Mint.

Whatever my mood, whatever the weather, I can find a tea to meet my needs. It’s simple and quick to prepare, requiring no fancy equipment or specialized knowledge.

I know coffee comes in different varieties, too. And I know there are ways to make it taste lighter or richer, depending on one’s mood. It just feels like a lot of work to suss out the flavor. Tea’s so straightforward. And, yet, it can be so complex.

Ice it, add simple syrup, and you have a symbol of the American South as ubiquitous as fried chicken. After all, when a Southerner says “iced tea,” she means sweet tea. It’s the default. And, of course, in Britain, the beverage hot tea is tied up richly with the history of both the working class and the upper class in unique ways. Tea’s even entered American politics, both literally at our founding and symbolically in the present day Tea Party movement.

Patrick Jane could never have been a coffee drinker. He could never have contemplated the human state over a steaming mug of joe the way he did over his teal teacup and saucer. Coffee lacks the subtlety tea possesses. Coffee’s a Labrador retriever. Tea is a Siamese cat.

I wonder what Patrick Jane would think of me, were he ever to come to my home to interview me. Would he open my pantry to see the mishmash of tea varieties and assume it’s a reflection of my mental state? My indecision? My lack of time to organize and clean?

Perhaps he’d be right about all of the above. But I hope he’d see the tea kettle that’s always on my stove, the cups and saucer just within grasp, and know he’d found a kindred spirit.

3 Responses to “Tea and TV”

  1. on 19 Feb 2015 at 12:21 pmSheri Goff

    Nicely stated. Wonder if the actor, Simon, drinks tea? I am guessing YES. I have the episode recorded. Think I will make a nice cup of tea and sit down and watch it!

  2. on 19 Feb 2015 at 1:20 pmofelia

    Love this! My grandmother used to sit all her grandkids around 5:30 every afternoon for some Tea and pastries. My dad sometimes would do the same now. Something her family did for generatons. So tea is also big at home. Now i have to bring you some coca leaves tea next time Im in Peru. 😉

  3. on 19 Feb 2015 at 1:37 pmKristine Rudolph

    It’s such a ritual! When D and I go on vacation, afternoon tea time is a must. I wish it were part of our culture here.

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