There really is nothing better than a lovely cuppa. A morning Earl Grey, served by the bed in a delicate cup and saucer. A milky chai in a chunky mug on a dark, rainy afternoon. A fragrant cup of piping hot peppermint, late at night, when you’ve counted all the sheep you possibly can and still can’t sleep.
If you’re anything like the average, rather fanatical tea drinker, chances are you have boxes of everything from elderflower to English breakfast tucked into the pantry. A cupboard bursting with different teapots – each devoted for brewing only a specific tea, thank you very much. And let’s not forget the drawer groaning with ‘tea tools’: infusers, matcha whisks, chai pots, stirrers, engraved silver tea scoops. (Or is that just me?)
You’re the type to drool over expensive specialty tea shops and their $100 pewter teapots. You’ll butt in with ‘Tea for me, please!’ when someone suggests coffee – and be the first to outline, in detail, exactly how you take yours when some poor soul offers to make a brew.
Wasn’t playwright Noel Coward so right when he said, ‘Wouldn’t it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn’t have tea?’ Luckily, Australians don’t have to contemplate such a thing, with the 50-64 age group alone sipping around 10 cups a week.
That’s hardly surprising because here’s the thing: tea is far, far more than just a few leaves, a glug of boiling water and a slurp of milk.
Firstly, a hot cuppa is the ideal choice for anyone who’s weeping, tired, injured or simply worn down by life. Tea is the best way to get someone talking who really needs to share. It’s the obvious beverage to offer a parent or grandparent caring for small children – especially if, in the hubbub, you suspect they’ve fallen prey to that universally frowned-on practice of microwaving a cold cuppa in order to bring it back to life.
A cup of tea – even poorly made – can be a peace offering from a badly behaved teenager. It can signal the end of an argument you’re having with a lover, or break the seal on a lengthy bout of the silent treatment. (Extra points if the tea-maker include biscuits.)
However, like anything that polarises people, tea can be used for evil. Just take a look at that Facebook meme about the ‘right’ shade of tea with milk. You’d hope that the right way is how you like it, but no – if you dare to share that your likes edge towards the milky end of the spectrum, the tea shaming may well send you scurrying for cover!
How do you take your tea?
Similarly, there are site devoted to the big tea issues, such as, ‘Imagine you fall in love with someone then find out they make tea like this!’ – next to a photo of milky tea. Others reveal the cardinal ‘tea sins’ committed in offices, which includes sneaking off to make your own cuppa instead of doing a tea round, using the last of the milk, making tea so strong it makes people’s eyes water, and perhaps the most upsetting of all: putting the milk in before the hot water. (No, no, no.)
Of course, you only have to look to Britain to get all the tea stats you need, including that only 3 per cent of people like their tea very milky; 7 per cent are so picky they won’t let anyone else make them a cuppa in case they get it wrong, and a whopping 35 per cent like it quite strong with just a dash of milk, a la the legendary Builder’s Cuppa.
If you’d like to become a better tea maker – and there are few causes more noble for one who associates with any aforementioned tea fanatics – Google will be invaluable. Countless sites out there can teach you how long to steep it, how hot the water should be, how much milk to stir in (subjective), but beware: you may end up on a plane to Japan falling down the tea ceremony rabbit hole where the process is so elaborate it takes around 40 minutes before you get your first sip.
Of course, I jest; tea and its many flavours and cultural origins is something to be celebrated. Not least because it presents you with a pleasurable, never-ending journey for life, so long as you have a tea bag, hot water and an adventurous spirit.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe it’s time to put the kettle on.
What's your favourite tea?