We’re a household of mixed cultures. Dr B’s cultural paradigm rules when it comes to whether we start the day with coffee or tea; it’s really only a question of what type of coffee. Will it be a plunger or do we have time for cappuccino? The beans we use are usually freshly ground in small batches and what brand they are can vary from week to week depending on what’s available at the supermarket at a reasonable price. We like Vittoria.
One morning recently I arrived at the breakfast table to find a mug of tea at my place. The lads were drinking coffee. I wasn’t entirely affronted – I know that Dr B means well when he decides I shouldn’t eat certain foods because they’re bad for me! – but I was puzzled. Dr B assured me he’d found the mug already prepared and waiting and had assumed that I wanted tea for breakfast. Ah, yes, it was my mug from the night before when I’d never actually got round to making my bedtime cuppa. Boy was relieved that it was merely a mix-up and that I wasn’t threatening what he perceived as the established paradigm (that’s what he said).
But he’s wrong. That IS my cultural paradigm. I grew up drinking tea for breakfast, lunch and tea and many points between. When you live on a farm, it’s quite standard practice to have five meals a day and sometimes six, so that’s a lot of tea-drinking opportunity going begging. We did have coffee sometimes for afternoon tea or supper, but I don’t recall our day ever being kick-started by anything but a big pot of tea.
Way back in the hazy days when I moved into my first flat, my Mum and Dad brought me some kitchenware bits and pieces when they visited to check it out; and Dad actually bought me a new teapot; not a coffeepot, a teapot, a little one-person pot that I loved. I knitted a tea cosy for it and I still have both tea cosy and pot. The pot shows signs of much use, with its design worn thin and the silver lines fading. Here it’s looking a little lost in a sea of red-and-white-checked table napkins that I made for Dr B.
For me the questions are what type of tea and whether it will be leaf or bag. It used to be Viceroy or Amgoorie, I think, with Bushells and Robur tying for last choice (only Bushells is still around, which may well be a comment on how Australia seems to have morphed into a coffee-drinking nation). For special occasions, we might have some Twinings Darjeeling tea. I remember its distinctive purple tin. But it was always leaf tea; there were no teabags in those days. (I don’t mean to imply they hadn’t been invented, as they’ve been around for a long time, but they weren’t then available in our supermarkets.) I’m still one who prefers leaf tea. I use teabags for their convenience and because some of the things you can buy in teabags, I would perhaps not buy in leaf form (chamomile for infusions, that sort of thing).
My favourite tea these days? Russian Caravan, whose slightly smoky flavour could be said to be somewhat reminiscent of billy tea, I have both leaf tea and teabags: one for home, the other for the office. Best of both worlds, don’t you think?