The Importance of Tea

Nov 15, 2015 | Personal


This has nothing to do with bookbinding or swordfighting or writing, I know, but frankly I like to indulge myself sometimes. It’s 9am, I’m sleep-deprived, and right now the cause of that is only seven months old, and snoozing in bed and getting the shut-eye that I so desperately need, so ya know what – I’m going to write about tea. Because tea is important, people. Especially if you’re Irish.

Needless to say, this is a very Irish view on tea.

I like my tea a certain way. Everyone does. You know you’re good friends with someone when you can make a cuppa for them how they like it without asking first. You know you’re married to someone when you automatically make them a cuppa when they need it, before they even ask for it or know it themselves.

For the record, here is my way:

  • Take mug from cupboard, place in front of kettle.

  • Fill kettle, boil kettle.

  • Place Barry’s teabag in mug.

  • Place one spoon of sugar in mug.

  • Add boiling water to mug, leaving space for enough milk to cool it down and make it drinkable immediately.

  • Stir everything in mug for ten seconds.

  • Remove teabag, place teabag in bin.

  • Stir mug again, ensuring all sugar has dissolved, and get a nice little whirlpool going.

  • Pour milk in the center of the whirlpool, letting the action mix the milk into the tea.

  • Serve.

I’ve done this so often that it’s muscle memory at this point.

Tea is a constant in my life. I’ve drunk more of it than alcohol, and likely more of it than actual water. After I gave birth, the first thing I wanted was a cup of tea (and may the gods shine on my better half, he knew this and made that a priority when I was in recovery; I had a cuppa in my hands not half an hour after my daughter was born).

As I write this, cranky as I am, I have a cup of tea beside me.

I was told, if I recall correctly, that pregnant women shouldn’t drink coffee because the caffeine could be a problem for the baby. I scoffed at that pretty quickly. The average Irish woman drinks four to five cups of strong black tea a day, if not more, and has done since tea became a thing in Ireland. We drink more tea than England. If caffeine had any effect on fertility, the Irish wouldn’t be known for multiplying faster than rabbits. Needless to say, I didn’t stop drinking tea while I was pregnant.

Sitting down to have tea with someone is not like getting coffee with them. Tea is a bonding experience. You go out to Starbucks to grab a coffee with someone; you stay in and make someone a cup of tea. Coffee is impersonal. Tea is intimate.

You drink tea to celebrate, to commiserate, to chat, to do nothing. You drink tea on your own as an accompaniment to whatever you’re doing alone. Tea goes with every occasion. Irish pubs, those temples to the art of getting intoxicated, might have every possible liquor behind the bar – but they will also serve Irish breakfast tea.

I drink tea while watching Netflix, or while writing, or even while bookbinding. I’ve drunk tea while rebuilding computers. (I have never spilled my tea on my electronics.) Tea is a constant. It’s always the same tea, as well – Barry’s Gold Blend, sent to me in bulk from Ireland. I sometimes think about getting the water from Ireland bottled and sent over as well, so that I can have the same cup of tea I would have while sitting in my parent’s living room, with my mother, on Christmas morning.

Yes, the kind of water matters. I’ve been drinking tea my whole goddamn life, I can tell the difference.

Tea is home. It’s the thing you have when you come home, or when you want to be reminded of home, or when you want to make a home. It’s an anchor, a point of reference. It’s stability. The act of making it and drinking it somehow makes the world better. It’s a pause, a chance to breathe and think and reflect and, for a minute, simply be.

Basically, what I’m saying is that tea is important.

It is now an hour later. I’ve finished my cup of tea, and everyone else is awake, and I’m ready to go do whatever.

Have a good day, wherever you are.