Okay all you coffee drinkers out there, I have a confession to make. I prefer tea!
You can keep all your pods, beans, plungers, grinders, coffee machines and blends – as well as your bitter after taste. Give me a lovely hot cup of English Breakfast tea with a dash of milk any day.
Tea has been fortifying the Poms for centuries and they have a lot to cope with on those grey winter days that never seem to end. You may have noticed we have a touch of cold weather here in Canberra too.
But there lies the rub. I think we tea drinkers often get a raw deal in Canberra cafes and social circles.
Brewing coffee seems to have become something of an art form in society, with people going to great lengths to ensure they provide or get to drink the perfect cup of coffee. Cafes can live or die according to whether they have the best barista and the best beans.
Entertainers care about providing guests with amazing coffee and, in recent years, fancy coffee machines have become commonplace in many homes.
None of that is bad but can’t we tea drinkers be treated well too? It’s like we’ve gone backwards as the coffee drinkers have been on the ascendency.
In those same homes with the magnificent espresso machines, you are often lucky to find anything more than a ‘no name’ tea bag or the most basic of brands.
I will concede that there are some wonderful tea houses in Canberra. The Teahouse at Gold Creek is a particular favourite of mine with its 50 varieties of tea and all the ceremony in the way it is served. There are also the T2 Tea stores in Civic, Belconnen and Woden boasting of “exotic smells”, “taste sensations” and more than 200 tea varieties.
However, the problem is that these places are few and far between. In most of the easily-accessible cafes, you can still get a pot of tea if you sit down but it often seems slapped together with little finesse and can be difficult to pour.
Hot water and a tea bag for $5.00
My biggest concern, however, is with takeaway tea. Here the standards have gone right downhill at the same rate as the prices have increased.
I may be a bit frugal, but I strongly object to paying $5.00 for a cup of takeaway tea if I am then given a polystyrene cup of hot water with a tea bag sitting in it and handed a container of milk! Sometimes I have even had the teabag handed to me separately!
Some cafes will take a little more trouble by adding the milk in for me and plonking a lid on top of the cup. This seems a bit better and does show more effort except for one big problem – I don’t want to drink tea with the tea bag left in!
I normally only have one hand to spare and am then left with the dilemma of somehow managing to peel the lid off the cup without hot water going everywhere so that I can remove the tea bag and put the lid back on again.
Couldn’t they just jiggle the teabag around until it’s brewed a bit and then remove it before putting the lid on? What was I paying for again?
Airport cafes are particularly bad with this practice. I train public servants in effective writing skills and in the last two years have done a lot of interstate trips. Whether I am at an airport in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or anywhere in-between, I have given up expecting to find a takeaway cup of tea that I feel is made properly. Instead, I make it my goal to reduce the amount I pay for it.
One time I walked the length and breadth of a large airport food court only to find that the cheapest cup was $4.70. At least I had some exercise!
Another time I was handed a cup of very hot tea without a lid at a regional Queensland airport and managed to overbalance a bit and spill the scalding brew all over my hand. That was a long story which eventually saw me being advised by a cardiologist on board the plane that the burns wouldn’t be permanent – you probably don’t want to know the rest.
What to do about sub-standard treatment
Now one of the hard things to take with all this sub-standard tea drinking treatment is that it seems to have become the norm.
Although I may feel cranky about being handed a cup of hot water for $5.00, I realise the person serving me has been told to serve it that way. Perhaps the rationale is that they don’t want to make your tea too weak or too strong or too milky.
I really do get irritated by this but, hopefully, I am beyond making someone else’s life miserable just for doing their job. I do realise it’s a trivial issue, it’s just that it keeps coming up because I drink an awful lot of tea.
Part of the problem is that, if I am going to behave like a reasonable person, I have no one to vent to. That’s where this article comes into play – I’ve put it all out there now thanks!
If you work at a cafe, then please take the teabag out for me and add in the milk. If you’re not sure how strong I want it, just ask me.
And if I’m visiting your home, it could be a good idea to keep a few good quality English Breakfast tea bags in the cupboard just to humour your pedantic tea-drinking guest. Irish Breakfast tea bags are also acceptable but avoid Earl Grey. I know I’m precious but I’m a lot easier to please than coffee drinkers!
Photo: by Glynis Quinlan.
Are you a tea drinker and can you understand my gripes? Please share your experiences in the comments. Or perhaps you’re a cafe owner and want to explain your tea-making policies – that would be great.
Coffee drinkers, you’ve already had it too good for too long but still feel free to offer an opinion. I am fairly robust when it comes to this topic but if you’re too harsh I can always hide away and drink a nice hot cup of tea.