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?

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

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.

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