A house without tea is not a home.
I remember coming home once to a house I shared with four other girls. We were living on the bones of our arse, most of our money went on ciggies and casks of Coolabah. On returning home one evening we spied a man climbing out of one of our windows. We were in shock. A man had broken in, and we had caught him! I said ‘Hey!’ He was caught in the act. The intruder was clearly annoyed, not by being busted, but by our obvious lack of good housekeeping. ‘There wasn’t even tea!’ He yelled, aggrieved.
I felt so judged!
How embarrassing, someone broke into our house, and not only did we not have anything worth stealing, the poor bastard couldn’t even make a cup of tea!
I do remember apologising as he walked off.
Note to self. Keep tea stocked in case of break and enter.
Every morning when I wake up I make a cup of tea. It’s the first thing I do. Nothing tastes quite as good as that first cup of tea. It’s part of the ritual of waking up, although the ritual has been significantly corrupted by the tea bag. The tea bag has kind of killed the magic. Don’t get me wrong, I do love to jiggle in a cup, but, like the man who once left my window tea-less, I often worry that the tea bag has reduced the ceremony of the much revered shared cuppa to something drunk, unappreciated, in solititude.
My grandmother, Thelma, made the best cup of tea. Tea was never made with bags. It was made from leaves in a small silver anodised pot. It was dressed in a cosy crocheted by her own hand and left to brew on a stand hand crafted by a grandchild from lacquered matchsticks. It was brought to a table laid with a searsucker cloth, set with china teacups, sugar bowl, a milk jug and biscuits. This was morning tea. Not something had at a desk, or on the run. It was had at 10am, precisely, seated at the table. The tea was sweet and milky and I don’t remember tea ever tasting that good again. I don’t think I have ever made tea like that. Those moments at the table with Thelma are tied in with the comfort I get from tea. Sometimes, if I have time, I’ll even use a pot to pour it into one of her china cups. My adult fingers look so large on the fragile handles.
Tea is incredible in a crisis. To share a story of loss or grief, it requires tea. Apparently it helps with stress. And it’s not just the tea itself. It’s the ritual of putting the kettle on. I love that. It’s about the preparation and the waiting. You just don’t get that from a glass of water. In a study where one group drank water and the other tea, the non tea group drank their water in silence. The people who drank tea built rapport. You see, the affects of tea were better in company. It’s a social beverage that affects our physiology.
I have some friends that drink neither tea nor coffee. When they visit it’s strange when they decline the offer. I wonder what to do. Sharing water together isn’t quite as bonding. I often wonder about them, the no hot drink people. I wonder how they manage connecting in a beverage-centred world.
This morning I stood at the bench at 5am, my brain still foggy. The purr of the electric kettle filling the darkness. I reach for my mug, but this morning my hand found my grandmothers pale pink china teacup. I thought of Thelma. I made a pot. I set two cups. I poured one for her, one for me. I sat at the bench and drank in silence. I thought of her alone in her house for 20 years, drinking most of her tea at a quiet kitchen table, alone. It makes me so exquisitely sad. I could taste her aloneness.
Same tea time every day. One cup. One biscuit. One woman.
Tea really does taste better shared.
Fuck the bag. I’m going back to the pot.