Pat McDermott: mourns the simplicity of a cup of tea
When Pat McDermott finds herself drowning in café culture, she recalls the good old days of a classic cuppa... or were they so good after all?
WALKED UP to the café on the corner last week. My granddaughters ordered their ‘usual’ – babycinos with a side order of marshmallows. Now it was my turn. Everyone was there… the macchiatos, mochas, espressos, cappuccinos, caffè lattes, ristrettos and even the Americanos. I felt like a guest at a Soprano family wedding. I read and re-read the coffee menu. A queue formed behind me, people sending texts, sighing, coughing and exchanging sympathetic smiles with the barista. Did I want a pour-over or a filter? A micro-lot? A cold drip? A direct trade? A fair trade?
The queue shuffled and stamped. Several people checked the time on their mobiles.
Fair trade sounded like the right thing to do. “Cool,” said the barista. “How do you want it?”
“Hot,” I said, cleverly. I was beginning to feel like one of the ‘in’ crowd.
“I mean how do you want your coffee? Espresso, flat white, latte, cappuccino, ristretto, double ristretto, long black, macchiato, double macchiato or a cappuccino? Maybe a slow drip or French press?”
This was getting risqué. I didn’t want a relationship. I wanted a coffee.
By now, the girls were rearranging the magazines and the cushions on the sofa. They were trying to cut their last marshmallow with a fork. I could hear growls from the people at the back of the line that now stretched out the door, under the awning and into the rain. “Flat white,” I said, desperate to bring the whole drama to an end.
“Cool,” said the barista again. “Piccolo or grande?”
I grabbed the girls and ran. I can still hear the cruel laughter that followed us out.
The MOTH (the Man of the House) thinks the world’s drowning in a tsunami of expensive froth. He’s fighting the trend single-handedly. He drinks tea made from tea leaves. He doesn’t like ‘gift’ teas that arrive with house guests and distant cousins.
“Anyone who gives you Brandy Butter Christmas Tea or Relax Yourself Summertime Blend is saying, ‘Here’s some expensive tea I found at the airport. Which bedroom am I in?’”
I think he’s a little harsh. A stack of these pretty tins sits in the pantry waiting for a tea emergency – the night we get bad news and run out of proper tea at the same time.
Every morning and most evenings, the MOTH makes tea following the rules set down by his mother. Bring a kettle of water to a ‘rolling’ boil. Warm the teapot. Put in a generous measure of loose tea. Fill the pot with boiling water, replace the lid and wait patiently. In the meantime, put out china cups and saucers, teaspoons, the sugar bowl and a jug of milk. Hot buttered toast and a jar of homemade marmalade will do nicely as well.
Even when the kids were young and morning noise and anxiety levels were high, the MOTH made tea. While all around him people lost their heads, he waited for the tea to brew. Exams began, deadlines whizzed by, planes, trains and taxis left without us, but the tea was poured when it was ready and not a moment earlier.
There are times a soy latte just doesn’t cut it. You need a proper cup of tea when:
You’ve just had a baby 15 minutes ago.
The vet called and the news isn’t good.
The baby you had 22 years ago is now leaving home.
The exam results could have been better. Some annoying chickens have come home to roost.
The last wedding guests have departed. A few weeks ago, I asked the MOTH if he remembered drinking tea and looking out at the ocean the morning after our wedding.
“How could I forget?” he answered. “The bloody tea was cold!”
I didn’t want a relationship. I wanted a coffee.