Growing up ‘tea’
7th June 2013 by
It’s that age-old question, a daily test of faith and eternal dilemma for those afflicted as I am by painful indecision, particularly in the early hours. I’ll leave you to conclude what constitutes ‘early’, suffice to say I sympathise with those who both go to sleep and rise impossibly late, almost as much as those up and at the world well before noon. For the record I am the latter, and with those extra waking hours likely face this (very real) first-world quandary a little more frequently than some.
“Tea or coffee?” There you go, I’ve betrayed my own bias already. Freudian slip perhaps? Perhaps the question for you is “Coffee or tea?” When offering a cuppa one of these will take precedent, and though I find joy in both I almost invariably default to my first love, tea, at least at the start of the day.
For me, tea belongs to childhood. I can’t remember a time I didn’t love it, or take comfort in hands around a happily hot mug, often sipped too soon, if not blown at delicately in eager anticipation. At one time I lived for Earl Grey, a somewhat controversial choice owing to its floral and heady Bergamot flavour. It’s only as an adult that I’ve discovered this particular blend elicits some impressive health benefits too.
In an act offensive to some, I still eschew the traditional slice of lemon in preference of a dash of milk. Always the same. Isn’t it remarkable that tea and coffee might be one of very few things of which we never tire? For a time while travelling, I lost that unwitting ritual of sitting down to the same brew each morning. I mourned hurried cups of the working week. Some days felt like grieving.
That’s the idea of course, that journeying to foreign countries negates routine and forces us to try fantastic new things. Except in my case that involved some fairly tragic supermarket grade tea and coffee, snatched at any opportunity while working a summer camp in the US. After a few months of that, and far from home, this Earl Grey girl was relieved to lay eyes on any old mug of builders. I got to like the stronger stuff.
Never mind what you fancy, because once you’ve got it (or the nearest thing on offer) there’s yet another telling and deeply personal question to come. “How do you take it?” The suspense! For how often do we judge others when their taste in tea and coffee (go on then, coffee and tea) departs, if slightly, from our own? This is not to say I’m making assumptions about your character when you ask for “just a dash of milk, no more”, but I will wonder if that’s how you’ve always liked it. Probably not.
My grandfather gives a comic account of a house-call he made as a policeman in the 60s. He and a colleague were offered tea by the elderly occupant, and watched in horror as the milk she added splashed into their cups, lumpy and soured. He’s taken tea and coffee black ever since, and still screws his nose up with a knowing smile if offered milk.
For my part, I’m an undercover sugar-weaner-off-er. That’s right – tell me you like your French press with two sugars and I’ll spoon in a measly one and a half, if you’re lucky. I like to think I’m doing good, because really no one needs that much sugar, and what if you’ve just not had such a smooth and sultry blend before? Take a sip before you sugar up. You can always add more.
Besides, we’re having cake.