Coffee was my first grown-up beverage.
There. I said it. I’m not proud, but there it is. You deserve to know the truth.
I don’t remember when I started drinking coffee; I don’t think it was before I went to college, although maybe by senior year of high school? In any event, it was the usual deal for beginning coffee drinkers like me who are truly wimps deep down inside (okay, maybe not even deep down, maybe I’m a surface wimp): milk and sugar please, so that the concoction is reminiscent of what the bitter brew might have been at one point, but don’t offend my taste buds.
In my first real (read: desk) job after college, I switched: black coffee with two Sweet n Lows in it. Why did I switch? Dunno. Call me whimsical. It was much more coffee-like, in that there was no mellow side to it, no smoothness of milk coating my tongue and protecting me from the harshness of the bean. My job was (apparently) stressful and I worked my way up to drinking six (6!!) cups of the stuff before lunch.
After I knocked around the world for a bit, I settled into a coffee routine: One cup before work, one cup during work, and if I went out with friends, one cup to end the evening. I’m not sure of the milk-and-Sweet-n-Low combos at that point. That memory, like so much of the early 80’s is a fuzzy haze in the file cabinet of my brain. And there wasn’t anything like the coffee there is today: no hazelnut vanilla mocha dream, no lattes, no half-caf-cappa-delta-cow, no turbo, no venti (and can I just say for the record that I refuse to use words like that in coffee establishments), no nothing. Just the beans, baby, and they were bitter.
(cool image found on google. I loves me the google images.)
So how did I become Tea and Sarcasm if was a coffee drinker? (You’re riveted now, eh?) My future hubby and I were at a diner late one night (before he was even a gleam of future hubby in my eye and how is that for mixing metaphors?) and he ordered a cup of tea. With milk.
“That sounds good!” I chirped to the waitress. “I’ll have one too!” Obviously I was a bird in another life with the chirping I’m doing here. The tea came. Or rather, a thick white china cup (not a mug, that was for coffee drinkers) with hot water in it, and a tea bag and a spoon with a slice of lemon and a tiny silver pitcher of milk. Look! Accessories! This tea drinking thing came with pieces I could arrange on the table in a pleasing pattern and combine in different ways. The action figure, if you will, of the late-night beverage group.
I unwrapped the teabag and placed it in the cup of water, and was immediately intrigued with the swirls of color that deepened in the cup. My future hubby moved his teabag string around and around, but I was transfixed with the color swirls and I kept it still. Then I noticed the color was remaining on the bottom and the clear water was floating on the top. (I’m a fun date, right?) I took my spoon and slowly moved it through the double-decker phenomenon happening in this ordinary cup in this ordinary diner, and watched the melding of two different worlds. How much fun was this? When you order coffee, you get a mug of solid black liquid. No phenomenon, no layers, no swirls, no fun. And believe me, it’s fun removing the teabag, because there are so many choices: do I wrap the string around the spoon and squeeze? Do I pick it up with my bare fingers and squeeze? Do I press it against the inside of the cup and squeeze? Why am I squeezing? What am I hoping will happen? Maybe I shouldn’t squeeze. Maybe I should let it drip. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a half-squeeze-half-drip technique I don’t know about! So much to learn.
And adding milk! Whoa. There was another artistic layer of color and shape and movement added to this little ordinary cup in the little ordinary diner. And when you stir the creamy white liquid into the sepia brown tea, it’s positively a Peter Max moment.
After I took my first sip, I remember thinking “This is so less bitter than coffee! It’s positively caressing my taste buds!” (I clearly think in prose.) I shared my revelations with Future Hubby by saying “mmmm, good.” I’m waxing rhapsodic here.
I remember so much about that first cup of tea, and I remember very little about the actual evening and what we talked about and why we were there. What does that say about me as a person? If it’s something shallow I’d rather not know.
I’ve been a dedicated tea drinker ever since. I’ve had the remarkable good fortune to be in Great Britain three times over the last twenty-five years, and tea there takes one to dizzying heights of splendor. It even causes one to use the impersonal pronoun “one” when it’s never been used before by one. My banner photo comes from an afternoon tea event we experienced at Fortnum and Mason, and it was very swellegant with all the silver and the frippery and the silver and the dainty and the silver. I now have dedicated tea times at home:
- First and second cup of the day (when I’m home) must be Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea. It gets the blood pumping and the brain braining and the fingers skipping merrily over the keyboard. When I’m not home, the second cup of the day is a Dunkin’ Donuts Extra Large Hot Tea with Skim Milk and One Tea Bag. This is how I request it all in one sentence, and while I love the Dunkin’ Donuts tea (and I have no idea what kind it is, it’s just exactly what I need) I will give it back if there’s two tea bags in it. They are supposed to put two tea bags in it because it’s the Extra Large, but two tea bags makes it too bitter for me, so I always emphasize the one tea bag. And I have taken to always checking before I drive away, because unless it’s my local Dunkin’ Donuts which does everything perfectly, many times they forget the milk. Forget the milk!? You might as well forget the Donut and just be Dunkin’.
- Afternoon cuppa: Twinings Chai Ultra Spice. Man, this is a slice of heaven in a cup. (Me and metaphors, best friends!) It’s just that little boost of the spicy that wakes up the fuzzy brain.
- After dinner: Lipton decaf tea. I am NOT a tea snob, and I can hear some serious tea-drinkers snorting right now. Yes, I can. I have super-powered internet hearing. I’m not so much a fan of regular Lipton, but their decaf tea is wonderful to me, and I buy it at the warehouse store.
I used to really like Earl Grey tea, but now it’s too fragrant for me. And the herbal “teas” that are in all the colorful and picturesque boxes? Bleaaaahhhh. I cannot abide them. I am a complex tea soul, clearly. Oh, and Starbucks? Not so much. I like their Tazo Chai Latte because it tastes like Christmas in a cup, but it’s about a bazillion hits of sugary syrupy stuff that I probably shouldn’t have often. But to go into a Starbucks and order a regular cup of tea (and I guess the default would be “Awake”) results in a cup filled with boiling water with no room for milk, two ginormous triangular-shaped teabags that smell very flowery, and a bitter end result. Guess I’m just a simple girl with simple tastes.
*Snort* *giggle* *Snort*
Not to diss Mr. Starbucks – it is, after all, a coffee place, and were I still a coffee-drinker, I might actually enjoy the place. They do make a very yummy lemon pound cake. It’s just not very tea-drinker-friendly, and I loves me a good cuppa.
In case you didn’t know.