Phew! This shop’s brew is true

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - DON MAKATATILE

EVER won­dered what men got up to at break time at the Jo­han­nes­burg Fam­ily Court and the Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion precinct?

Well, they go for tea.

If you see hordes of men around Chi­na­town in down­town Joburg walk­ing around with an added spring in their step, do note that many get by with a lit­tle help from the Ori­en­tals.

There’s a place called Mei Mei, a non­de­script ad­dress on Com­mis­sioner Street within shout­ing dis­tance of the famed John Vorster Square.

It sells the pop­u­lar bev­er­age that men choose over what their du­ti­ful wives might pre­pare for break­fast.

The sign out­side Mei Mei de­clares it re­tails “Herbal Tea” but two steps into the store the un­wit­ting cus­tomer is con­fronted with all sorts of aphro­disi­acs, most of the tea va­ri­ety.

Men of all shapes and sizes come in and out of Mei Mei through­out the day, but es­pe­cially dur­ing breaks.

Men in suits and ties; men in jeans and T-shirts. The pur­suit is sin­gu­lar – to help them take mat­ters into their own hands.

As is the na­ture of men who seek such help, there’s lit­tle ban­ter. The stranger who vol­un­tar­ily rec­om­mends a po­tion be­cause he’s used it and knows its po­tency is an odd­ity. The rest come – oops en­ter the store – take a sip and fly, à la the drink­ing pat­terns of old Sophi­a­town.

But in 2018 Jo­han­nes­burg, there’s no hel­meted po­lice­man to hound the drinker out of the joint. Nor is what­ever con­coc­tion they drink an il­licit brew that could land one in a cell at the nearby po­lice sta­tion.

The hur­ried pace is a mat­ter of choice. Strictly choice.

Men still act like they hardly need help in that de­part­ment. But the traf­fic through Mei Mei ex­plodes this myth.

If you stand out­side and peer through the dis­play win­dow – even for a frac­tion of a se­cond – you will see pack­ets of Sex Tea, these bear­ing a top­less Bruce Lee looka­like in amorous pose on the pack. The throng of cus­tomers walk in with the hope that what worked for Bruce Lee could be theirs for the tak­ing!

In ev­ery bright colour the Chi­nese are known for, the tea brands in­side are end­less. Some are la­belled Detox Tea, Gon­or­rhea Tea, Cough­ing Tea and such.

My eyes linger a while longer on Gin­seng Date Tea and I won­der briefly how many men have scored suc­cess­ful dates af­ter im­bib­ing the tea.

There’s Gun­pow­der Tea and I sort of won­der if it could reawaken the stal­lion in a cow­boy from the west of Joburg.

Dr Long Sex Tea is ev­ery­where in­side the store, in dif­fer­ent shades.

But the brisk busi­ness in the store does not re­sult from packet sales, it seems. The men who come in drop a R20 note on the counter, which in turn gets them a tot-sized shot they gulp down.

I have money from the clients. I can’t buy for you with the clients’ money Cus­tomer Mei Mei

This drink of their choice comes in a va­ri­ety of plas­tic urns, la­belled 1 to 4. There’s a claim on one of these con­tain­ers that it helps with high blood pres­sure.

Yeah, right!

One of the men jokes that “the store is full, I see you guys are here for Black Fri­day”.

The posse that comes in to­gether joke among them­selves.

One guy buys all four mugs of cof­fee for his bud­dies.

The cof­fee is not the sort you’d pick up at your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket; it is some­thing called Phyto An­dro.

An­other group of men that fol­lows keeps the ban­ter to it­self too. One of them says, “I have money from the clients; I can’t buy for you with the clients’ money.”

He’s def­i­nitely the type that ekes out a liv­ing at the court.

His ac­cent traces his roots to the North.

And who says men from those parts of the coun­try do the Gi­gaba chal­lenge with no help from Bei­jing.

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