It’s a stereotype that British people love tea. I am not sure whether this is considered xenophobic or not since I think of the stereotype as being rather fond rather than malicious or snarky. I must confess that I have found it to be true that the British treat tea as if it is nectar and I hold my hands up to being one of those that thinks of tea as being fitting for any occasion.
When a visitor comes to my house, I always offer them tea or coffee. I like it when they choose tea because I am not a coffee drinker – indeed, I absolutely loathe coffee or coffee-flavoured anything – so it means I can make a pot of tea rather than making a single cuppa in a mug. I start my day – and often end it too – with a cosy cup of tea. Days when I don’t have a cup of tea at the start of the day are often a bit pants. When I am feeling a bit under the weather I drink tea with lemon in it or some green tea. It’s a complete placebo, I’m certain, but it always makes me feel a bit better. In fact, every single time I delivered a baby, the first thing the midwives offered me was buttered toast and a steaming cup of tea. After labouring for 56 hours, never has a cuppa seemed more like liquid manna in the wilderness. If someone is experiencing a bit of a crisis, I automatically pop the kettle on because everything seems better with a cup of tea and just the action of sipping it and feeling the warmth travel down your body feels calming.
I was glad to discover when I moved to America that tea has taken off here in a way that it was the poor relation to coffee before – based on my travel experience, of course, rather than American people’s domestic arrangements. There are far more varieties stocked in the supermarket (including British blend) and it is possible to order hot tea in some restaurants. I have also now encountered some Americans who prefer tea to coffee.
I had a guest over to the house the other week and was delighted when she declared that she loved tea. Down came my Great-Grandmother’s stainless steel art deco teapot from the shelf with matching jug and sugar bowl – I don’t myself take sugar but I always offer it to guests. I offered a choice of Earl Grey or British blend tea and my guest chose the latter and that led to a conversation about tea leaves and origins. I declared that I was in no way a tea fascist: I enjoy tea but I am not particular or fussy about it.
I then ensured that the kettle was filled with fresh water from the tap so as to ensure that it was perfectly oxygenated as reboiled water makes tea taste brackish; I studied the colour of the water as the tea bags steeped in the teapot and wheeked out the bags as soon as the perfect shade of amber had been achieved; I poured equal amounts of milk into each mug; then I carefully poured the tea while explaining that I had not quite perfected how to make tea with hard water since I am used to Scotland’s soft water.
My guest looked at me. “I think maybe you are a little bit fussy about tea.”
Perhaps. But I don’t (yet!) have loose tea and a strainer. I left those behind in Scotland.
I shall conclude with a page from my art journal on this very subject.
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