There are many things you learn as you go along in life. Some the hard way, some the easy way, and others you had no idea you wanted to learn in the first place. Loving tea is one of those last ones.
Tea is to me what spinach is to Popeye, what beer is to the McKenzie brothers, what Bella is to Edward. I can face almost any disaster and climb almost any mountain when preceded by a cup of properly prepared tea.
Ah yes, I saw you shake your head just then. “Another tea snob” is what you thought. I was also one of you back in the day.
What in the world possessed my travelling guests from across the pond that they would go into a state of depression when parted from their dearly missed cuppa? Why did they stand there, staring at the Lipton tea bags and the Styrofoam cups; sugar packets and wooden stir sticks at the ready? It was no use encouraging them along with other flavors of prepackaged blandness or perhaps offers of a plastic spoon for the job at hand. No.
Better to do without than make a cup of gutter water.
Tea withdrawal does not a pleasant guest make.
The gracious hostess within me should have addressed this conundrum with the proper level of respect, yet I am sorry to say that I simply couldn’t grasp the gravity of the situation. There’s some tea. There’s a cup. What’s the hold-up? Just don’t offer me any.
I went along with similar views of coffee I’m sorry to say, and here is where you have relegated me to the weirdy heap, I know. If coffee only tasted the way it smelled, we would be getting somewhere. It is an entirely bitter and awkward brew, and flavored creamers cannot possibly be the answer. If I have to flavor my coffee with Almond Joy candy bar creamer to get it down, I’d just as soon eat the candy bar. I suppose my dignity would be only a little crushed by sitting at the coffee house chowing down a candy bar instead of sipping coffee.
With Starbucks popping up on every corner and everyone suddenly “meeting for coffee”, I was faced with the choice of zero social life or finding a way to blend in at the coffee house. I was pleasantly surprised, after having all of those exciting Italian words explained in English, to discover that a frappuccino is basically ice cream with a coffee flavor. A latte is basically flavored milk. Add enough sugar and milk to a coffee and it is no longer coffee. Voila!
You can top it with whipped cream and pretend you are having hot cocoa, which used to be my only palatable hot drink of choice. Unless you are ordering in a restaurant and everyone orders coffee but you order cocoa and get thinly disguised looks of pity. And the waitress without fail puts too much cocoa into the cup, making a layer of chocolate sludge at the bottom, rendering the watery drink a horrifying substitute for a sophisticated adult drink.
I’m afraid my experiences with tea were no better. Many well meaning friends had tried to introduce me to the joys of tea in the past. I tried, I really did! Green and herbal teas taste exactly as advertised. At least the tea was honest, unlike traitorous coffee. I was still not excited about drinking a cup of hot orange flavored water. Or flower flavored. They are nice fragrances though, perhaps a little behind the ears? Black teas might as well be coffee. Perhaps my palate was simply not ready to be trained. Perhaps not enough sugar and milk had been applied. Or perhaps tea is the weakest flavor of hot water ever, and you could not convince me to give it the effort required to acquire the taste when there was still coffee yet to conquer.
But I digress. While having a basic understanding of a disappointing hot cup before you, it didn’t seem life altering. And then the inevitable happened.
As it does.