Sunday, April 8, 2012

What’s with the Brit’s Obsession with Tea?

British rule over India left the Brits with two things; curries and Tea. There are more varieties and better tasting curries in England than there are in India now. As for tea, it is to English as wine is to the French. Their water, lifeline, their obsession.

The first time I visited my relatives in Scotland ten years ago it shocked me how often people drank tea. What about juice, milk or water? When one cup was finished it was topped up with another perfectly steeped pot. By the time I left to travel Europe I have my fill of the substance. That was my first introduction to the British obsession with tea. We do drink tea in Canada but it always seemed like a thing for stay at home moms, they would drink in the afternoon while they gossiped. Tea was also brought out at home when we had company, on special occasions, and especially whenever my Grandma came over. My mother would bring out her fancy tea pot and cups with saucers would be filled after a large meal. I know it sounds very Leave it to Beaver but well that’s how it was. So to me tea wasn’t a drink I craved or really even thought of so much.

I then got together and traveled with my English boyfriend whom I met in Greece. One of our first purchases when we landed in Cairo was metal cups, a mini kettle and an element so we could make tea anywhere there was an outlet or fire. His precious cargo was a zip lock bag of tea bags given to him from a South African friend in Greece. I didn’t understand the need so much for tea but I went along with it as I did with most things he did and it was nice on the cold desert nights. When I lived with him in Southampton I still didn’t accustomed myself to the beige liquid. When I asked if I could have a glass of milk his family looked at me like I had a third eye and told me milk is for the baby or to go in tea.

Over my travels I have seen the English cherish a cuppa in a foreign land and pine for a nice brew but I just didn’t get it.

This past summer I struggled with my Grandma dying and the one good thing from the English boy was he told me to have a cup of tea, “it’s a hug in a mug”. So I did, whenever I felt sad. I had tea on the hottest day of the year; I had it any time of day. I drank it imagining someone’s arms around me. I brought some to my Grandma’s hospital bed hoping she would have a cup with me and the both of us would be swaddled in that warm imaginary embrace washing away the fear, worry and sadness.

So when I returned to the UK this fall the weather was damp and cold and I happily accepted a warm cup of tea. I shared a cup in the morning with English boy on the days he decided to be nice to me and it made me hold onto him when I probably should have let go. I gossiped over tea with my girlfriends in Brighton, recapped the day with my mom’s cousin in Scotland, sat nestled in my cousin’s flat in Edinburgh talking about everything and watching Save the Children and it was a nice warm break from pub life with my friend in Hereford. With every cup I had created a memory; I felt the warmth of the liquid and the warmth of the person I was with. I came to understand the English obsession with tea and why they crave it when they are far from home.

It’s a start to your day, it’s an afternoon break to say your almost there, it’s a chat with an old friend or with a new, it’s a night cap to tuck you in, it’s a memory and it’s a;

Hug in a mug

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