Elizabeth was looking around for scholarships that could help fund her Master’s in Liberal Arts at Reed College in Portland, when she discovered the Calm-a-Sutra competition run by the Tea Council of the USA. The best video promoting the health benefits of tea in one to two minutes would win $15,000 toward a college course. The rules were simple, the possibilities endless.
Being music lovers – and happening to have several instruments plus a multitrack recorder lying around the house – we decided to come up with a catchy song containing all the fascinating information about tea’s health advantages that we could find. That was where we encountered the biggest problem: though we had both enjoyed drinking tea all our lives, we didn’t know tea was good for you in so many different ways until we started researching it! We also had no idea that there were so many countries in which tea is popular, or that they had so many unusual ways of consuming it.
Pretty soon we had so many ideas, both lyrical and musical, that we ended up writing and recording two songs and shooting two videos to go with them, each with its own different character. “The Scale of Tea” is upbeat, with a catchy chorus, and has a feel-good video including lip-synching from a weird talking teapot we found in a store. “The Teacup Tango” is moodier, though still humorous, and gave David an opportunity to play the accordion and Elizabeth an excuse to wear a big red flower in her hair. Prior to making the videos, we bought props such as teacups and teapots from thrift stores and a samovar (Russian tea urn) from a local Russian store. We did some filming at home in Vancouver, WA, and some on vacation in Hawaii.
Of all the curious tea facts we learned in the course of the project, perhaps the one that caught our imagination the most was that in Myanmar, southeast Asia, tea is eaten as a snack. In the “Tango” video, we make a joke out of that, chewing on a teabag, but, in fact, the tea leaves are pickled and served on a plate. We don’t know yet whether we won the scholarship, but had a lot of fun trying.