Yes, there are many reasons to dislike tea.
|Weapon of mass destruction.|
But historical indentured servitude and the treatment of humans as beasts of burden aside, I’ve just always hated the taste.
“It’ll relax you when you’re wound up, and pep you up when you’re feeling down,” enthused Dan, as we relaxed on his white sofa with a cuppa. “It’ll warm you up when you’re cold, but also cool you down when you’re hot.”
I’d made the trek to Dan’s Moorooka abode to take part in the simple act of “having a cup of tea”. For at least 12 months, Dan had been on and on at me to drink a bloody cup of tea with him. “I've never drunk tea, it’s horrible stuff,” I’d say. “But there’s a ritual, and an atmosphere and a mood, and a real delight to share a cup of tea with someone,” he'd flounce back. I’d tell him to put his skirt back on, the big girl, and the conversation would stop. Until the next time he brought it up.
|"Go on, go on, go on."|
When I decided to do #30before30, I knew that “drinking tea” would inevitably be on the list. Dan would have been a teary mess had I not agreed to it. I just couldn’t face the prospect of all that EMOTION. Sheesh. So, I decided to step forth and think of England, and wrap my laughing gear around a cuppa.
“I’m so excited you’re here!” Dan greeted me with a big goofy smile. “This is going to be so much fun.” I rolled my eyes and put down my handbag. Dan just put down his handbag.
He began by pouring some boiling water into a Styrofoam cup, topping it up with milk, then placing it on the kitchen bench. I was a bit put off, but this was intentional.
“This is WORST cup of tea you will ever taste,” he said. “We’re going to use it as a base test.”
“But I’ve seen you drink tea out of styrofoam cups,” I replied.
“Yes, well,” he said. “Once you’ve got an addiction, it doesn’t matter how good the smack is, it’s still smack.”
He left the styro tea to “steep” on the bench while he got to work with the kettle. He told me that the best cup of tea is made with water that is just about to hit boiling point, but doesn’t actually do so. It’s something called a “rolling boil”. As soon as the electric kettle clicked off, he grabbed it and poured the almost-boiling water into a small blue teapot. He’d put regular black tea leaves inside, having decried teabags as “a sin”.
“Some people say you have to spin the teapot nine times,” he said. “But those people are insane. You just leave it for a few minutes to steep, then turn it one-quarter. That ensures the hot water is evenly distributed.”
As he waited, he grabbed fresh milk from the fridge, and poured about a centimetre into the bottom of two mugs (yes, mugs. He apologised for that, and told me ideally I should be drinking out of smaller china cups). The milk goes in first, he said, because then it will be a big enough mass to not get burnt by the incoming hot tea.
He followed it up with the tea itself. But before I could taste this properly brewed cuppa, I had to taste the base line stuff first. I took a sip.
“This just tastes like flavoured hot water,” I said, wrinkling my nose.
“Yes, yes it does!” Dan replied. "Now try the proper stuff. You want to drink it straight down, don't swirl it around your mouth. And you'll have to blow on it first, as it's very hot."
I blew soft ripples across the surface of the drink, then held it to my lips and drank.
"This just tastes like flavoured hot water too," I said.
Dan's face fell for a moment, but then he perked back up. "Ah!" he said. "But let's try with this."
He put two teaspoons of white sugar into the drink and stirred. "This completely changes the drink."
I sipped again, and I must admit, he was right. The sweetness made the tea was much more bearable, even verging on the almost pleasant. It had also cooled slightly, allowing the flavour to be released from all that hot water. I wish I had the adjectives to describe what I thought of it, but my vocabulary seems to be as under-developed as my palate. Slightly bitter, I guess. Light, but with a heavy edge. But it wasn't awful. My temples tingled slightly after a few more sips, which I assumed was the caffeine making its way through my synapses.
"So what do you have with tea?" I asked Dan. He clapped his hands in delight, and produced a packet of Gingernut biscuits.
"These are great, because they're very firm," he said. "Most other types of biscuits, like shortbread, will just crumble."
He told me dunking your biscuit into tea was an acceptable, if not entirely polite, habit, and so I followed his lead and dipped the gingernut into my now half-empty mug. "Now this is good," I said. "The strong ginger cancels out the taste of the tea."
For Dan, it seemed to be a dream come true. He insisted we sit and relax, and have a conversation about our day. "You see, it gives you something to bond over," he declared while crossing his legs. "You have a cup of tea with someone, and it's not two people nattering. It's two people sharing an experience."
Eventually my tea got cold, and I couldn't face anymore. But I couldn't help but be inwardly touched by Dan's reverence for this simple act. Of course, I didn't say that. I didn't want him jumping up and insisting we hug and make plans to see a chick flick. But I was pleased that I'd made the effort to have this cup of tea with him, and when I said I'd do it again, I was only half-fibbing.
I'm sure he'll be happy to do the washing up.