Phew! This shop’s brew is true
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.
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.