This week, I gave the Church Mice Writers a prompt about tea. Here’s the piece I wrote about it.
I love tea – have loved tea since I was small and used to drink it – cold and milky – from my grandmother’s saucer. Progressed in later years to mugs with two sugars, still milky, though in my early twenties I proudly weaned myself off sugar and learned to have it with just a dash of milk. You get a better sense of the flavour that way.
The perfect cuppa must be weak, no long-stewed builder’s variety for me, thank you. I was married to a builder for over thirty years, wrote a poem once about his insistence on stirring the pot rather than letting it brew by itself. Not long ago he said he asks me for coffee because he dislikes my tea. There it was, all those years, unseen.
My mother’s tea was terrible, truth be known. I can’t recall when we gave up the teapot and began to use t-bags in the mug as a commonplace. Can’t remember the family even having a tea pot, actually, though we must have, surely? An older and not frequently-met cousin emailed after mum died to say his abiding memory of visiting as a small child was seeing a teaspoon tied on a long string to the leg of the kitchen table. To stop it getting lost, he believed, though I’m sure that can’t be true. I wonder whether the teapot was similarly secured?
Mum was a coffee drinker and I have lots of childhood memories of that beverage; bottles of camp coffee when I was very small, milky coffees made in a saucepan on stay-home-from-school bronchial winter days, and the time we were given an old, battered percolator, trialling it one Saturday morning, balanced precariously on the gas hob. The aroma was delicious, the guttural glub-glub-glub of the liquid bubbling up into the Pyrex top exciting to witness, the anticipation unbearable and the ‘real’ coffee itself was … disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. My parents loved it and kept up using it for all of two-shopping trips, tops. Thus ended the pretensions of the working class household and the percolator was condemned to the top shelf of the pantry, behind the biscuit tin of ‘important documents’ and the boxed set of cook books by Elizabeth David.
And we went back to boiling a kettle and making mugs of the Co-op’s finest coffee and chicory powered floor-sweepings. I seem to remember that being a new innovation, too – powdered coffee – but we came late to most things in our house, so goodness only knows if that’s so.
Most cuppas are ‘tea-bag-in-a-mug’ jobs now-a-days, though we’re slowly recognising that bags are a drain on the environment – from the energy used for their production, to the plastic woven into their mesh which stops them disintegrating in the ground as well as the cup. As for me, I’m back to loose-leaf tea at the prompting of the daughter, made with a teapot in the latter years of us as a family, in a single-cup fine linen bag since I was gifted one for Christmas last year. It results in a much more flavoursome drink, in my opinion, and the environmental halo I’ve gained since reverting adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the blend.
How do you like your tea?
See some of the ‘tea’ pieces written by members of the group here.