In the comments to Tara’s recent beautifully evocative review of L’Artisan‘s Tea for Two (you have to read it if you haven’t read it yet – I promise: you’ll be charmed) several people mentioned they didn’t like the name. They didn’t explain why but it surprised me so I kept thinking about it.
For a long time I couldn’t figure out where and when I heard Tea for Two song for the first time. Actually, I could have sworn that the first time I heard lyrics of this song in 2007 on the CD Hey Eugene! by one of my favorite group Pink Martini. They recorded this song with a guest – 81-year-old legendary jazz singer Jimmy Scott. I found an interesting small article about that version of the song on NPR website:
… singer China Forbes starts off with the seldom-heard introductory verse, which makes it clear that the whole thing is a fantasy. There is no tea, and no twosome. She’s making it all up, because her love life is a disaster. […] Their [Forbes and Scott’s] “Tea for Two” becomes the confession of a woman and her imaginary lover, their innocence shielding them from all the things that might go wrong.
Since there’s no real video for the clip below can I suggest listening to it while quickly scanning through the rest of the article?
But I had a feeling that I knew this song… well, at least a line from the song (“tea for two and two for tea”) long before then. But from where? I haven’t heard this song before – either when I still lived back in my native country or after I moved to the U.S. But somehow I knew those words and recognized the tune… When I found the explanation I was amazed.
I was right: I haven’t heard the song before. What I heard many times through my childhood was Tahiti Trot, Op. 16 (listen to 10-15 seconds starting from 44s) – Dmitri Shostakovich‘s (a prominent Russian composer and pianist) 1927 orchestration of Tea for Two:
Shostakovich wrote it in response to a challenge from conductor Nikolai Malko: after the two listened to the song on record at Malko’s house, Malko bet 100 roubles that Shostakovich could not completely re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour. Shostakovich took him up and won, completing the orchestration in around 45 minutes.
Tahiti Trot was first performed in Moscow on 25 November 1928, and has been a popular encore ever since.
Of course I liked and recognized the melody! Of course I thought it was a great name for perfume! And when I tried Tea for Two perfume I immediately liked it as well.
Tea for Two is the only bottle from L’Artisan Parfumeur in my collection. And it’s one of a very few that are truly shared perfumes in my collection: I enjoy both wearing it myself and smelling it on my vSO. Perfume for two.
I have one more “musical” association for this perfume’s name (in case you still haven’t changed your mind about it). It’s an abstract linguistic joke I heard many years ago (told in Russian). Recently I discovered that it exists in some other non-English-speaking cultures (probably in those without long and short vowels).
A tourist who doesn’t speak English well calls hotel’s front desk from his room No 22 and tries to order two cups of tea:
Concierge: (cheerfully) How can I help you?
Concierge: Pardon me?
Concierge: (with a shrug and eye-rolling, thinking: “Those crazy foreigners!”) Purum-pum-pum-pum! (rings off)
I keep murmuring that Tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu for the last couple of weeks.
Images: my own
Such a wonderfully funny post and I love tbat we have yet another perfume in common!
I cannot claim a classical reference as my exposure to Tea for Two was through Alvin and the Chipmunks. I think they were jumping on top of piano keys while singing (i could have mixed and matched episodes).
That chipmunks story sounds vaguely familiar…
I’m not surprised we found one more favorite in common :)
Lovely post Undina and so glad you thought my review was that evocative. Tea for Two – the perfume – is a true love for me. I think I just grew up knowing the song so it was interesting to read the background.
It did surprise me when a number of people said they didn’t like the name. I feel I can be quite sensitive to perfume names but this one didn’t bother me at all, one way or the other.
I love that T42 is truly a shared fragrance for you and your v.SO.
I must say, the article about the lyrics did raise a wry smile. My own post was a similar fantasy.
Thank you, Tara. If it weren’t for your post (I really-really liked your story, it felt real) and those comments I might have never written this post.
I’m not sure I even read anything about this perfume before I decided to buy a bottle: it just felt right. Now I hope more people will read your review, decide to try it, like it and buy – and L’Artisan realizes they were right to re-release it :)
That’s really lovely to hear. Thanks Undina :)
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The picture of the rosy teapot and cups with Rusty has brought joy to me this morning. That china pattern is such a great memory from my great aunt’s china cabinet.
The set reminds me of something from my childhood as well. And I like the quality of these: they are very thin and beautiful. Just a perfect illustration for the song.
Fascinating, Undina. I always loved the name Tea for Two (and, as you know, love the perfume as well), and I knew the tune of the song and its chorus, but I never knew any of the verses. Had no idea it was a song about an imaginary coupling.
It was also interesting to learn of the Shostakovich version that you grew up knowing. I followed your link and listened to it – it’s a much more stirring version of Tea for Two (pun intended) and I liked it, too.
(Oh, and Rusty with tea cups and Tea for Two!!! I don’t need to say more, just give him a treat, please.) :)
I’m not sure the original song was intended as a one-side imaginary picture but rather an invitation to an existing partner to imagine how it will/would be… And it’s a change from a male to a female lead in the song that prompted this new prospective.
Rusty got a couple of treats and seems content.
Thank you so much for joining the dots between these various incarnations of Tea for Two. I was familiar with the Shostakovich piece yet had quite forgotten the connection. I knew nothing of how he came to compose the music though, so that was all part of the fun of the post. And that’s a cracking joke at the end to close. Pink Martini was new to me too! I have recently been reacquainting myself with this scent thanks to Tara and think it is one of those sleeper perfumes that should get more exposure! I’ll raise a cup to that. ;)
I have enough of this perfume for both of us as soon as you’re ready to wear it.
It’s fun to find those pieces of the puzzle: I keep re-arranging them in my head until they click into their places in the post.
I actually like the name Tea for Two. I have never tried this one for some reasons but I’ve recently received a few recommendations and now you, I’ve got to try it.
It was really interesting to know the background story for the music; I’ve known the tune but never paid much attention to the lyrics. I like it even more now!
By the way, my heart just melted over the photo of Rusty with your beautiful tea set.:)
Rusty cooperated well during this session and got several treats – though I’m not sure he connected those events.
Since Tea for Two was re-released recently I hope you’ll get to try it soon. Even if you decide not to wear it, it’s interesting and unusual enough to warrant testing.
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Dear Undina, this might sound like a weird compliment, but this is your cutest post ever, perhaps one of the all time cute perfume posts out there :-) It made me smile and think of the silly joke all day, walking around saying (to myself mostly I hope )tutiturumtutu. Then there was the wonderful Shostakovich tongue in cheek piece that I had no idea existed, not to mention the over-cute ‘tea with Rusty’ photo (He clearly liked playing on the table cloth ;-) ) – oh yes and it was all due to Tea for Two by L’Artisan. I liked the perfume, I had a bottle but ended up swapping it because it wasn’t LOVE, I did like the name though. Your (and Tara’s )post could almost have me think differently. I do own a couple of L’artisan’s that I do love though Saffran Troublant, Vanilia and (to a lesser extend )Ambre Extreme. Anyway thanks for this post
Thank you, Asali. I’m glad you liked the post (and the joke – it’s hard to predict how that type of a joke would “sound” 1) in writing and 2) in foreign language).
Maybe one day you’ll come back to this perfume.
Ambre Extreme is one of the perfumes that I still consider buying. After I go through the decant I have.
Rusty loved playing with the table cloth – as you can guess, it was one of a very few times he was allowed to do so ;)
Fun post. I think I will have tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu floating in the brain for awhile. Only one L’Artisan bottle? Doesn’t your L’Artisan Premier Figuer Extreme count as a bottle, or was it bought for bottle love rather than scent love?
You’re correct! Even though I do not mind wearing Premier Figuier from time to time, the main reason I bought it was that special bottle – so I completely forgot about it! :)
I love you. What a wonderful post. Rusty is a very handsome man and now I know I’m going to have an ear worm all day.
Love you back, dear <3
(and thanks to you I learned a new word today – ear worm! :) )
Thank god they saw sense and brought it back. I fell for tea for two just as they discontinued it, but I’m happy to report that after testing my older bottle against a new one, that it’s back in all it’s former glory!
I was worried the did something to it. I’m glad it’s not the case. Thank you for the good news.
You have just made my Saturday with this fun post topped off by another picture featuring the most handsome of models, Rusty :)
Thank you, Steve. Rusty and I are happy to serve :)
This post would be very suitable for the upcoming edition of Esxence where perfume-music relation will be highlighted this year. As a person with English being not my primary languague i’m surprised how fast I noticed the tu-ti-tu-rum-tu-tu meaning :D
As a non-native speaker, I think, you had an advantage! :)
I will be waiting for your report from Esxence – musical or not.
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Fantastique! Great fun. Thank you.
Thank you :)
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I sort of like the name of the perfume better than the perfume itself. Lovely post and a good joke to round it off.
Thank you, Ingeborg.
There at least several perfumes that I wish I liked more because of the names. On the other hand, there are some perfumes I wish were named better :)
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