The Rise of the Steam
The kettle boils! A tea geek, locked in his room during quarantine, casually watched an episode of some Star Wars cartoon, and—lo!—a tea pot appeared into view. At first, he thought it was a mere happenstance, and didn’t think that tea played a part in the lore.
He was wrong.
Like many a geek light-speeding their way to middle age, Star Wars played an integral part of my popcultural development. Even when I traded in my sci-fi stripes for tea nerd cred, I still felt the Force call be back to some good ol’ fashion lightsaber duality. In 2018, while catching an episode within the final season of the cartoon, Star Wars: Rebels, I noticed something.
An Imperial archeologist interrogated a rebel, but—instead of going straight for the torture droid—he served her tea. At first, I thought, This has gotta be a throwaway thing. Tea couldn’t have a larger role in the lore, could it? I’ve been disappointed before by tea mentioned as a beverage in sci-fi without exploration of origin.
Light-speed skip ahead two years, and I caught the second-to-last episode of The Mandalorian. Kuiil, a member of the Ugnaught race, reprogrammed an assassin droid; IG-11. One of the new, menial tasks it learned to perform?
Yep, tea service.
Well, now I had to dig up more. For geeks-‘n-giggles, I typed “tea and Star Wars” into good ol’ Google. And . . .
Apparently, the fan wiki for Star Wars had an entire entry on tea in the franchise—canon and noncanon material mentions. For the sake of my brain, I stuck with the canonical sources. The most prevalent tea version in the universe was tarine tea, made from the leaves of the tarine bush.
No mention of where the bushes originally hailed from has been mentioned in the movies, novels, or TV shows, but bushes matching their description have been seen on the world of Batuu. The world plays a role in the supplemental material linked to the Disney theme park attraction, Galaxy’s Edge.
Given that it was the most mentioned “tea” throughout The Clone Wars cartoon, one can assume that it was the most ubiquitous of the decocted beverages among the Core Worlds in the Star Wars galaxy. Aldaraanians were quite fond of it, and appreciation of tarine leaf tea even stuck around long enough to be appreciated by higher-ups in the First Order (circa. The Force Awakens). General Hux was quite fond of it.
Likewise, in The Clone Wars, it was mentioned that Mandalorians enjoyed a tea-like beverage; florets (small flowers) of the Cassius tree. Pre Viszla, the leader of Death Watch—a militia of Mandalorian traditionalists—served it to Darth Maul in the season 5 episode, “Eminence”.
Showing that, even in a galaxy far, far away, tea can’t escaped being hailed for its health benefits.
Earlier in Season 3, smugglers tried to hock an RTD (ready-to-drink) tea—presumably made with a Cassius flower base—laced with a poison called slabin.
Children took to the beverage rather quickly, but immediately fell in upon consuming it. Senator Amidala and the Mandalorian Duchess, Satine, tried to investigate the source of the beverage. The entire episode focused on RTD production. A small, dark side part of me took fiendish pleasure in seeing an RTD cast in such a negative light.
While digging and writing all this up, I drank no less than seven steeps of a shou puerh that was baked in a ripe pomelo.
It was personally prepared by the Family Dawson, who—like me—lean on the side of tea and sci-fi geekdom. When the two sides balance, I often don’t know what to do with it. I can’t help but zero in on it when tea is mentioned in some of my favorite fandoms. The way tea and sci-fi “blends” is a curiosity to me. This is only the second time I’ve done this kind of meta-“research”, but it’s not like I don’t have the time to go down this path.
Even if . . .