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Teatotal

Tea People used to piss me off. It was the smug clank of their spoons in china mugs, the dinga-dinga-dinga as they stirred in the sugar, the AHHHHH after their first slurp. As a non-teadrinker they annoyed me no end.

It probably all stems from growing up with a Mothership obsessed with tea. She must have downed a dozen cups a day. "Ooh I'm dying for a cuppa," was her number one phrase, even on the hottest summer day. It seemed the only reason she brought Rhi and I into the world was to have two handy tea-making slaves. Our pantry was choked with boxes of Earl Grey bought on special, so if the apocalypse came at least our rations would be aromatic.

Once I'd left the nest I vowed my tea-making days were over, but whenever I arrived home for a visit Mum would greet me with, "Oh great timing, I could do with a fresh cup." One time before Christmas break Mum was perched in her armchair, a trashy paperback in one hand and the TV remote in the other, in full relaxation mode after completing another hectic school year.

MOTHERSHIP: Hey Shauna.

SHAUNA:  What?

M:  Shauna!

S:  What?

M:  Shauna.

S:  What!?

M:  Are you going to make The Mother a cup of tea?

S:  No.

M:  Why not?

S:  Coz I don't wanna.

M:  Oh.

[Five minutes pass.]

MOTHERSHIP:  Shauna!

SHAUNA:  What!?

M:  Hey Shauna.

S:  WHAT?!

M:  Are you going to The Mother a cup of tea?

S:  Nope.

M:  Why not?

S:  Because, that's why!

[Mothership purses lips, turns back to Oprah , then mutters poutily…]

MOTHERSHIP:  Shauna's being a bitch!

But recently I've gained an appreciation for Mum's obsession. It happened the fateful night before the day Gareth and I got together. He asked me did I want a cup of tea and I replied, "Oh no thanks! I don't like tea!". It reminded me of a time many years before when a guy asked me did I want to come in for coffee. It was just like that Seinfeld episode where George turns down a late-night cuppa and it sparks a lengthy whole "Does coffee mean sex" debate. Except I didn't think of that at the time, even though it was 1AM. I just said, "Oh no thanks! I don't like coffee!" and drove away into the moonlight.

Anyway, Gareth's question was perfectly innocent – tea really did mean tea. We were still too shy to even make eye contact, let alone sweet love down by the fire. But he was astounded that I was tea-less at 26 years old. Eager to establish myself as a wild adventurer, I agreed to try it. As he rattled cups and spoons and kettles, I examined the box of teabags and tried to think of something charming to say.

"So… it says here this tea is Scottish Blend tea. Is there such a thing?"

"Oh yeah," He smiled. "It's genuine Scottish tea from the Scottish tea plantations."

"Tea plantations? In Scotland?"

"Yeah! It's special cold climate tea. They grow it down in the Borders!"

Gareth loves to tell people how gullible I was that day, but I still insist that I didn't believe him. It was just that I was so keen to get into his pants that he could have told me that the Scottish tea plantation was right next to the haggis fields and across the road from the oatcake orchard that I still would have squealed, "Really, how fascinating!".

I will never forget the first sip. It was scalding hot; I hadn't thought to let it rest for awhile. It burned a path down my throat until POW! It was like a punch in the chest, hot and liquid. It was bloody amazing.

"What do you think?"

"Oh yeah. Not too shabby!"

I proceeded to drink five more cups over the evening as we chatted away. When I told my sister later how I didn't get to sleep til dawn, she cackled "Ooh! Saucy!" but I explained that there'd been no hanky panky — it was just the effects of tea on a body that had been a complete stranger to caffeine for the previous two and a half decades. At 6am I was still staring at the ceiling and squeaking, "I can't sleep! I can't sleep! Hee hee!"

After that I was a dedicated Tea Person. It was a strange and wonderful new world. Now when I went to friend's houses I didn't have to ask meekly, "Umm, can I get a drink of water? From the tap is fine!". Now I could have a collection of mugs on my desk at work and a jumble of teabags in the drawer. But the biggest revelation was how tea transformed eating. The most humble foods become something special when taken with tea. That is, if you define humble foods as those laden with sugar and/or fat.

There's something so magical about crumbs and butter and sugar and hot liquid rolling round in your mouth like socks in a tumble dryer. Let's start with toast. Buttery Vegemite toast, peanut butter toast, avocado with fresh ground pepper toast, grilled cheese on toast; white bread, brown bread, multigrain; they're all elevated from tasty to gobsmackingly superb when taken with a fresh cuppa.

Then there's the great Scottish Bacon Roll – hot crispy bacon and runny egg on limp white roll – the perfect hangover cure. Or a buttered scone with strawberry jam. Oatcakes topped with mature cheddar. Or my favourite – fish and chips by the sea with scalding tea in a polystyrene cup.

Then there's the wonderful world of biscuits. Tim Tams and Mint Slices rule, and even mangled Anzacs get better with a brew. I love taking a bikkie bite then a gulp of tea – unladylike but delicious. The chocolate Hob Nob, my favourite British biscuit, becomes a floaty oaty chocolatey mess. Even the cheapest, crappiest Custard Creams explode beautifully leaving crumbs trapped in your teeth.

And let's not forget the melty pleasure of chocolate bars, all their careful manufacturing coming undone with a good gulp of tea. Kit Kat layers crumble, Mars Bars turn to mush. My favourite indulgence is a Twix, there's nothing better than dissolving chocolate salty caramel with soggy biscuit chaser.

Eighteen months on, I wonder what I did all day before I had tea. What did I do with conversation lulls before I could say 'Shall I put the kettle on?'. How did I waste valuable minutes at work? How did I deal with a crisis without a fresh cup? Best of all, Gareth still makes a great cup and you don't have to call him a bitch to get one!

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


29 thoughts on “Teatotal

  1. This is EXACTLY what happened to me!

    When I lived in America all anyone ever drank was ICED tea and I HATED it. I hated making it, I hated the smell of it, I hated washing glasses that used to house it. I hated the WHOLE process.

    Then I moved to Australia. Everytime I went to my mother-in-law’s house, she would ask, “Would you like a cuppa?” At first I always said, “No, thank you.” Then huz would interject and say, “Stephene doesn’t LIKE tea, mum.” And then I would get the LOOK. You know, the over the glasses pointed look that says, “WHAT is WRONG with you, you BLOODY AMERICAN.”

    So I just started saying yes to avoid the look and now I am a CONVERT. I drink tea at work and I drink it after tidying the kitchen at night. I dip my Scottish Fingers (heheh) in my tea, and I love Tim Tam slams.

    Yes, my name is Stephene, and I love tea.

  2. ah tea. one of the joys of life. i was never a tea lover until i lived with my grandparents during my 18th summer. they drank it black (too much of a chore to add all that cream and sugar) but i preferred mine with two scoops and a fresh swish of cream. a year later i slowly weaned myself onto black (or “clear”) tea. there’s no going back. and there’s always a good excuse to have another cup and to buy a muffin or biscuit or some other sweet to go along.
    i do prefer hot tea, even in the summer, although i find home brewed iced tea is a treat at times – and i love ordering iced tea in the states where they make it right – unsweetened!

  3. Canadians put sugar in their iced tea. bleck. a word to the wise: unless you like tooth-numbing sweetness in your iced tea, don’t order it in a Canadian restaurant.
    (ps i am a Canadian so I am guilty as charged.)
    A LOT of people I know put sugar in their hot tea. in fact they look at me strangely whe n i ask for my tea “clear.” one friend in particular puts stevia in her tea. STEVIA! Now that gives you a shot in the old wisdom teeth.

  4. lots of people have sugar in their tea. especially old ladies. i wouldn’t do it, unless i was recovering from a faint…

  5. First off, congrats on the marriage, I’ve meant it, but not said it until now. After reading the post on how you felt about the one year anniversary we can all see how much in love you are, best wishes to you both.

    Now, on to the important stuff: congratulations on becoming a Tea Drinker. There is a level of civilisation that is measured by whether you drink tea. The Brits (and most of Europe), China and a few other places are at the height of civilisation, for we drink it. When the Americans get the hang of it, they will cease their foolish ways and become a more advanced society.

    Now you can see why it was worth invading India and going to war for.

    Roll on tea, cornerstone of civilisation.

    (Oh, and personally, I prefer the McVities Digestive as the Dunking Biscuit of Choice – and if you’re feeling really adventurous, get chocolate covered ones)

  6. Worrying. My Intended has exactly the same approach to getting cups of tea made as the Mothership. Only cheekier, if possible.

    “I think it’s your turn to make the tea.”
    or
    “Did you say you were making a cup of tea?”
    or even
    “Tea? (charming smile) Good idea.”

    Needless to say, nobody will have mentioned the possibility. Not that I never offer to make him any – but nobody, even the Mothership, could drink such industrial quantities. I find my intake of liquids about doubles when I’m with him, and I don’t always have a cup when he does.

    I may have to show this to my little sister, who has reached years of supposed discretion without being converted to grown-up hot drinks yet. (When she’s cold she drinks orange juice diluted with hot water, which is unbelievably acidic-tasting…)

    How anyone can acquire a degree without copious quantities of coffee and tea is a mystery to me.

  7. Yes, but do you put cream in your tea? Mmmm…I love tea, especially when it’s cold outside and I’m all cozy inside with tea and cookies!

  8. As anyone familiar with the tv show Father Ted or indeed with maiden aints and grandparents in Eire can attest the Irish are very fond of the leaf.

    The line “Will you have a cup of tea” is never really a question more punctuation.

    My granny and great aunt infused me and my siblings with enough diuretic tea to nearly undo our mothers good work on the potty training front.

    But a life half lived in the jax is a small price for a life made lively by tea.

    you can keep your coffee

  9. Love your writing. Liked this story and cracked up completely at the “on special” story. A friends family used to shop like your mother and grandmother. It was a tribal ritual for them and it was like they were shopping on speed. They had this deep primal war cry of “It’s a bargain”. People at the mall would look up startled and the shopping frenzy would begin. I swear everyone at the mall got just a little more manic at those times.

  10. APOCALYPSE EARL GREY!

    I grew up drinking the stuff, but didn’t know true bliss until an Irish friend introduced me to earl grey spiked with Baileys Irish Cream. Now there’s decadance.

    It cracks up all my American friends that my parents and I really did have 5 o’clock tea every evening when we got home, and tea-time out in the garden weather permitting. Now I’ve converted my Pennsylvanian bloke into a tea-a-holic, complete with an infuser and stash of loose-leaf at work. He’d also only had horribly oversweetened instant lipton tea before meeting me, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Jasmine Green, Chai Spice and all my other hot-water-infused friends.

  11. I grew up in NY city making the tea for the parents but never drinking it myself.

    Until I was in my twenties. Yum.

    Now I’ve converted the completely American (a Long Island girl!) new wifey to tea-drinking.

    She was having a particularly bad day recently and said, “I can’t wait to get home and have a nice cuppa tea.”

  12. Oh, tea is wonderful! Good on Gareth! I’ve been drinking it since I was 5, albeit very milky and sugary back then, and remember thinking Dad was the antichrist (or just really really misguided) when he served me coffee as a 7-year-old. Like the Mothership, there is no day too hot for a cup of tea, I reckon.

    T-bone always serves me tea, but I have to call him ‘Polly’ first. Like as in ‘Polly put the kettle on’. I know, it’s totally sick and kinky, but it gets me tea.

  13. Teaspoon of life 😉

    PS: What makes a blogger a blogger?
    Being a blogger is a bit like being an alcoholic: if you say you are one, you are
    What makes a blog a blog?

  14. Well, I’m afraid I’m a lightweight: the only teas I like are fruit teas. I’ll drink “normal” tea if there’s a lack of coffee, but with milk and sugar; or – if I’m especially priviledged (but not priviledged enough for there to be coffee) – with lemon. Coffee and tea: half the wonder and comfort is the hot wet liquid part. Joy of joys.

  15. Earl Grey? Pfft. Who the heck puts bergamot in their tea?

    I know normally staid people who get very cranky if they don’t get their cup of tea.

    TEA! EARL GREY! HOT!

  16. damon .. good man!

    maybe its just a question of cultural differences .. but here .. only girls and closet-queers drink tea ..

    actually .. not exactly .. but it IS a distinct sign that there is something horribly wrong with you .. an implication that you can’t be trusted ..

    i myself, being a very open-minded person 🙂 .. do not discriminate against tea-drinkers .. yet .. they DO freak me out from time to time … especially when one offers me some .. i have this ellaborate inner flip-out of “don’t be puching your snake-oil around here, buddy! i know all about you lot!”

    but .. well .. different countires, different cultures .. different customs .. 😉

  17. MMm. I love tea too! Black tea, green tea ,,, all teas except chamomile!
    I especially love homemade Indian chai which is black tea all doctored up with ginger,milk, ginger etc… to taste delicious..
    By the way, Shauny, I love your blog!
    Seine

  18. I love a latte so I’ll pass on the tea…except chair. mmm. yum. However am a champion tea-maker after making leaf tea “in the pot, dear” for my parents since I was about 4. luverly.

  19. My dad brought us hot tea in bed every morning – but whenever we went out to church, cattle sales, clearing sales etc my sister and I kept busy trotting back and forth with cups of tea for him. His friends told him we were well-trained.

    Most people I know (in Australia) have milk & sugar in their tea, but I only drink it that way after a car accident. And I only drink Earl Grey if it is Twinings, because that is the only authentic Earl Grey – a friend and I went to “an evening with Steven Twining” and turned into tea snobs 🙂

  20. Shauny,

    I log on everyday to see whats new on WNPC. Love it.

    Check out ‘nice cup of tea and a sit down’. Its the site that discovers biscuits from around the world and their lovliness with tea for you!

    Sarah

    PS if you are in Ireland at some stage (or even the Irish Aisle of your supermarket – they do exist in the bigger ones) get yourself some Barrys tea. Its the best tea on the planet.

  21. Mmmmm….tea. I’m a native Coloradoan, and we drank tea (MILK & sugar, not cream!) growing up–I never tasted coffee until I was 17, and college turned me to a coffee addict.

    Then I went for a holiday in west Scotland, where the coffee always seemed to taste as if someone had poured hot water over 1/8th of a teaspoon of very old instant. And the tea was this rich, deep, beautiful weight. It only took a couple of days to make the switch back to tea. (Milk, not cream. Still lots of sugar.)

    I thought I’d go back to coffee when I returned, but the tea stuck.

    Trouble is, real UK tea is very much heftier than tea blended for the US market, so I order the UK blends, which makes my tea a fussy and expensive little habit. But….well, we’re all allowed our eccentricities.

    Love the blog. It’s so much fun to read here.

  22. I’ve been drinking tea since I was like.. 4. Nowadays I drink my tea really really strong, other people seem to hate it or something. Tea makes you pee a hell of a lot though, that’s a downside. I hope you don’t get as used to tea as I am..

    Strange thing is, I don’t like coffee.

    Anyway, I really liked this post and your weblog in general. It looks pretty cool. Keep it up!!

  23. Hehe, it’s good to see you’ve come over to the, erm, Tea side. It does seem to make food taste better too, especially avacado and pepper on toast, mmmmmmm.

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