Thursday, 26 September 2013

Crossing the Teas

In a way, I am very British. I live - and was born - in Australia, but I have a lot of British traits. My ancestors were somewhere between three-fourths and seven-eighths British; my father's something of a royalist; I speak with distinction and enunciate my words properly; I try to carry myself as a distinguished gentleman & I love that old-school romanticism of the well-spoken intellectual. So the Briton in me gets a fair bit of leg-work. But one trait of Mother England that I absolutely cannot stand is the cup of tea.
The Word of the Day is: 'TEA'

Tea /tee/ n. 1. A shrub, related to camellia, and widely grown in China, Japan, India, etc., with fragrant white flowers. 2. The dried and prepared leaves of the shrub, from which a bitter, aromatic beverage is made by infusion in boiling water. 3. Any kind of leaves, flowers, etc., so used, or any plant yielding them. 4. The drink so prepared. 5. A light meal taken in the late afternoon. 6. The main evening meal. 7. A cup of tea, Colloquial Anything well suited to one's experience, taste or liking: That show is more like my cup of tea.

I was inspired to write this post by Miss Sridhar of "A Faceless Author". Well, the truth is, I was basically told to write this post and couldn't bring myself to refuse the request of such a charming girl. To be perfectly honest though, I think she only wants me to type this whole post so that she can refute it in the comments section. So keep an eye out for that.
For you see, she really likes tea, but as I like to put it: A cup of tea is not my cup of tea. I really don't like tea. In many ways, I am disgusted by tea. There are many reasons for this, which I will outline presently for your perusal.

First of all, it tastes like nothing. Tea itself is basically "flavoured water", but it doesn't have much of a flavour at all. The only reason you boil the water is to make the water hot enough for the endothermic reaction to subtly extract the flavour from the dead leaves that are awash in it. Yet, after turning the water a sickly brown or yellow colour, all you get is a weak bitterness. Considering how much power it takes to heat water, tea to me is just wasted energy.
I know a lot of people say that the flavour of tea is all about the smell, which would be all well and good if tea was used purely as potpourri; but it isn't. When I drink tea, all I get is the overpowering flavour of bitter, dirty water. I like the smell of roses, but this is the equivalent of chewing on the stem full of thorns just to smell it, you'd see why I'd be less than inclined to do so.
Oh, but there is a way to flavour it! You can add milk or water (or lemon, if you really enjoy sour tea). But my question is, since the tea-flavour is so weak and you like the taste of sugar, couldn't you just put sugar in milk and drink that? Why do you have to dangle your lawn-clippings in water just to pretend you're drinking something more than sugary milk?

Secondly, I hate the culture of people that enjoy tea. In the online, crowd-sourced site, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Earth Edition", there is an entry on Tea. Not only is the entry ridiculously long, but it also tries to blame a person's dislike of tea not on the disgusting taste of tea, but on a person's inability to make it properly. But if you ask me, anything that takes such effort just to not suck is a bad thing. It's the same as those advertisements that say "this product will make you lose weight . . . so long as you also exercise and eat a healthy diet".
At this point, it's not the tea that's good, it's my ability to make it: Spinning the teapot around three times clockwise, three times widdershins; adding a fraction to the base of the crucible before crushing the leaves and whistling "Henry the Eighth I Am" as you pour the brew. It's just silly to me, but it seems like tea-drinkers love these little rituals. In fact, ritual, I feel, is the perfect word, since to so many "tea" has almost evolved into a religion, with its selection of beliefs. Some people believe that drinking green tea will make you live longer; some people believe a cup of tea has more caffeine in it than a cup of coffee & some people even believe that tea-bags are sinful, and that true tea-drinkers should brew from leaf alone.
It's just beyond tea-leaf [ha!]. I wanted a beverage, not an unscientific, hierarchical, paganistic, ritual-based belief system.

Thirdly, I always associate tea with the old Aussie phrase "Do you want a cuppa?".
For those of you that don't live in Australia, first of all I feel sorry for you, but more importantly "cuppa" is short of "cup of tea/coffee". I personally, do not like this term. Not the slang of cuppa, I think that word is cute; rather, I don't like being asked, because it usually ends with disappointment.
Usually, I just say 'No' to spare everyone grief, but it gets frustrating if I actually want a cup of coffee. Because if you answer "Yes, I'd like a coffee", then the follow-up question is "How do you take it?" [unless you like being inefficient and instead ask the three questions "Do you take it with milk?" followed by "Would you like sugar?" then "One or two?", but that's another matter entirely].
The thing is, this is inefficient for me, because I take my coffee a very particular way:
"Two (Raw) Sugars, Strong (Two Teaspoons of Coffee), plentiful Milk & Iced"
I don't drink hot coffee, it tastes too bitter and makes my insides hot, like I've got a fever or something, but nobody offers to cool my coffee. If I tried to get someone else to make my coffee the way I like it, I'd seem like I was ordering around a manservant (or maid, I guess). The only way to get a good one is to say "Yes, but I'll make it myself". But so often, because people are so goddamn charitable, they will usually insist with a "No, I'll make it for you" and a smile. Yet even if I have a particularly forgiving host that attempted to fulfill my demands, I'll still hate it because I make my coffee based on ancient measurements ordained by my palate alone, that no one else has yet to master. So I won't be able to enjoy my hosts efforts, making me seem ungrateful and making them feel unappreciated.
If I ever visit your house, do me a favour, let me make my own cuppa; and if you can stand it, perhaps let me make yours as well.

Finally, Old People. I have nothing against old people as people. My grandmother is "old people" and I love her to bits and she drinks tea. But the thing is, as you get older your taste buds start to get weaker so you won't really get to enjoy the taste of things as much as you used to. You still get to feel the textures and enjoy smells, but not so much flavour. So, I have a pet theory that this is why old people love tea. I'm of the belief that it always tasted bland but smelled nice, so to old folks it always tastes the same. But that alone is not why I dislike it so much.
The reason is because my mother is the manager of a nursing home. Thankfully my mother's a good manager so the residents are kept in good condition and everything, but the fact of the matter is that the high security/dementia ward will always be, at the very least, a melancholy place.
It also smells. Not like crap or pee or anything (that kind of thing is catered for), rather, it has this off-putting, almost warm, organic, stale, sour smell that isn't very strong but it just manages to invade the very tip of your nose. I worked as a gardener at my mother's work for a while, and every time I entered that ward I couldn't quite put my finger on what was causing the smell.
Then one morning, as they served breakfast, it hit me. It was the tea. They serve tea every morning. A weak, milky tea (often sugarless). Now, they serve this in every ward, but the thing is, if you've got dementia (or the like), you're more prone to spill a little, or get it caught in the spittle-gunk that accumulates at the corners of your mouth. As a result, it lingers on your person and because it has milk in it, after lingering for a while it will sour a little and smell stale.
So to me, the smell of milky tea will always be associated sadness, decay and senility.

So, basically, that is why I hate tea. There are many facets, some based in opinion some based in fact, but all based on tea. I look forward to a very particular retort in the comments section below . . .

For now I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time I'm going to go make myself an ice cuppa coffee.


  1. Aww, I'm not that adorable. Especially when running on five hours of sleep. But thank you. I'm laughing as I read this, because your use of concrete language and strong visuals convey what tea means to you.

    It's perfectly all right to dislike tea for those reasons, for negative association and being a coffee person; I like it for nostalgic reasons, though as a kid I never liked it until high school.

    1. Well you're that adorable to me. Also, I guess that nostalgia's as good a reason as any to enjoy tea. But you're palate would have to be more sensitive than mine; I honestly can't taste it that much.


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