Let’s don’t get political. I know, I used the term “expatriate” in my title and, believe me, it’s sounding pretty good right now, but the fact that America is a mess right now is all too known to we, the people. So, instead, let’s talk about how obsessed Americans are with coffee and how I ally myself with the tea-minded masses.
Anyone who is not from the U.S. may find it hard to believe that very few Americans drink tea. I mean, I’m sure there are plenty of tea-drinkers somewhere out there, but as with the metric system, America wanted to do its own thing and set out to be purposefully difficult… I mean different.
I, personally, don’t remember the last time I had coffee. I always found the smell to be utterly enticing, but the flavor has never appealed to me. So, when I was introduced to black tea some years ago, it was an epiphany that shifted into a complete lifestyle change.
I will go ahead and tell you that it is not easy to be a tea-drinker in the U.S., or at least in the South. As mentioned earlier and according to some very brief and only mildly emotionally invested research that I just did, over $40 billion is spent on coffee annually in the U.S. Americans lurv that java juice. I’m reminded of that scene in the world’s best movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” when Tom Hanks’ character is musing about how the act of ordering coffee makes people feel like they’re in charge of something. “Tall. Decaf. Capp-u-cci-no.” As Joe Fox so wisely stated, people like to take charge by making all the tiny decisions that lead to their perfect concoction. The same can be said about tea, though, so I apologize for the digression.
Anyway, the U.S. has almost collectively decided that we will drink coffee, so those of us who drink tea are metaphorically left out in the rain on many occasions. For instance, when I went to Ohio for Christmas this year, we went to IHOP (I know, I know) and, since this isn’t my first rodeo, I brought tea bags from home and had a few stuffed in my purse in case they didn’t have my preferred type. Well, when I asked if they had hot tea, she said, “yes I can bring you some Lipton” and I just asked her to bring me hot water. Of course, the water wasn’t the proper temp, but I just chose to pick my battles. Such is the eternal plight of the tea-drinking American who travels within the continental U.S. I recently lead a field trip to South Carolina and, again, sacrificed needed suitcase space so I wouldn’t find myself tea-less all weekend. I must give a shout out, though, to Marriott Hotels for including English Breakfast bags with the coffee pods in each room. I was so pleased to be proven wrong.
I’m lucky that I live in a hipster-ish town; it’s my experience that hipsters encourage any high-maintenance eating/drinking habits, so I can count on access to English Breakfast tea bags pretty much anywhere I go in town, except the lame chain restaurants, which we don’t patronize anyway. Remember eons ago when I wrote about being happy in my “vanilla-ness”? Well, I still “yam what I yam,” so it is to be expected that my bachelorette party was a tea party. We all felt classy af. That tea parlor has recently quit doing afternoon tea and only caters to groups over 20 (good luck with that), so I’m glad we had our party before they became “too good for us.”
I’m almost certainly over-extending my right to assume things, but I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that most, if not all, tea-drinking nations treat afternoon tea like a regular, everyday occasion that isn’t ridiculous even in the slightest. I feel like it reveals something about how American society perceives “tea parties” that part of the experience is that all members roam the establishment in order to find absurd accessories with which they adorn themselves while they sip tea with their pinkies as “out” as is physically possible. In fact, in the above pic, the owner came to take a picture of our table and insisted that we all “pinky out.” Check dem pinks for proof.
I’m not complaining since, as you can see, I’ve been tearing up the tea party game since birth. In the days of yore, though, we’d put on our Sunday best and survey a multitude of bougie accessory options, like faux furs, parasols, lace gloves, obscene costume jewelry, and all the many many hats. This is how Americans think foreigners live daily life. The local shop closed within the past few years; it’s, honest to god, a miracle that it even existed so close to our little Podunk town. When it closed, I remember being so regretful that I didn’t know sooner so I could try to buy out all the absurd accessories. Maybe I should task my mother with finding the owner, still. As far as tea goes, I’m in it to win it for life, so my nephew and my future child will have to suffer through some tea parties, whether they like it or not. Shout out to Hannah and my sister for being my forever tea companions.
Today, I continue the obsession with less accessorizing. I have loose leaf tea at work every day and I remain surprised every time a kid is unaware that tea is a thing. On weekends, I make a whole pot and sit it on my candle warmer so I can slowly sip it and enjoy a calm, casual morning. It has even permeated my birthdays and Christmases, since I get nice teas and useful tools regularly. Hannah gets me a box of Harrods English Breakfast every time she goes international, for which I am eternally and energetically thankful. Additionally, my mother recently organized all our family sets of china and brought me a cup and saucer from each of our sets. I also got some glass hobnail sets from my family museum, so I’m accumulating quite the collection of assorted sets.
I know this is a book blog, so here is how I validate ranting about tea: IT’S MY BLOG! If you are upset, go do literally any other thing besides judge MY blog. Also, tea and books are like pb&j, so there.
Come have tea with me!!