Monday, August 11, 2008

The Tea Whore of Australia


My husband is a tea whore.

I don't want to start any inter-continental arguments about who loves their tea more, but I do believe that Australians take their tea and coffee more seriously that just about any group of people I've ever met. I think the phrases "obsessive", "fanatic", "weirdly-connected to" and "overly-preoccupied with" come to mind.

Just a personal observation, is all I'm saying.

David is downright snobby about his tea, which is why I was a little mortified when we went to brunch at a lovely and very reasonably-priced restaurant in our neighborhood called Cafe Largo and had a "tea incident".

David ordered hot tea. I ordered the unsweetened iced version, which according to my husband, is another way that Americans have bastardized proper tea drinking.

Like I said, tea whore.

So, a very nice waitress dutifully brought David his tea, which was a cup of hot water and a tea bag tucked neatly on the saucer. But alas, this apparently was a crime against proper tea drinking and some kind of important proper tea drinking line had been crossed and my once calm husband was all nerved up like a lion in a cage.

Apparently to get a proper brew, the water has to be boiling ferociously hot and you put the bag in the cup and then you put the boiling water, right off the fire, into the cup. Failing to do so means that the water will have cooled down in the transport from kitchen to table and will not be hot enough to brew the tea, which makes perfect sense except this concept is completely against the whole individualistic American mentality, if you ask me, because if the waitress had put my tea bag in the cup, poured the water over it and brought it to me, I would have been pissed because it's my tea and I control the bag and I want to make my own tea and get the darkness and strength to my satisfaction.

See the difference? Tea drinking is obviously a clash of cultures and experiences.

So the waitress, unaware of her transgressions, puts the cup of hot water down in front of him, totally unaware that she had committed the ultimate tea sin. This is the look on his face.


He's thinking, "This is soooo wrong."

Here he's trying to be a good sport, but it's, like, killing him.


The man is in agony. Drink the tea. Don't drink the tea. Drink the tea. Don't drink the tea. Dooh! What can an Aussie do to get a good cup of tea in this country?

And see now, he's in a pickle because he can't really drink the tea like this, but David has this whole reserved British/Australian thing going that prevents him from jumping up and making a scene. It's the pickle of all pickles!


So, one minute he's pondering his situation and then, he steadies himself and realizes he must say something or he won't have any tea for brunch and he waves the waitress over to the table.

This is what he says to her, which doesn't sound all that bad because his thick accent actually makes everything he says sound very smart, if you can actually understand what he's saying:

Um, Hi...um, I need you to do something for me and um, I know it's going to sound strange and it isn't anything you've done wrong, but I need you to take this back to the kitchen and pour out this water and um, put the tea bag in the cup and pour the boiling water over it..ha ha..I know that sounds ridiculous but it's actually the proper way to brew a bag and um, yeah, I just can't drink it this way.

Okay, so the waitress now thinks my husband is drunk. At noon on Sunday. And she rolls her eyes. And sort of sighs a little. Like this:



And she's thinking, "Who does this guy think he is?" And then, this picture pops into her mind:


Not that David cared, because he got his tea all properly brewed and I wanted to say "It's Lipton's for heaven's sakes, not liquid gold" but I kept my mouth shut and he regaled me with all the reasons that Starbucks never took off in Australia - coffee bastardization freaks - and then, he mentioned that the restaurant had heated his milk, which was another "tea whore no-no" and he contemplated jumping behind the bar and giving the wait staff a proper tea lesson but steadied himself and went back to drinking his ill-prepared tea, feeling all vastly superior and content in his tea whore snobbery.

See? All smiles now.



xxoo YM


PS: Disclaimer: I didn't take a picture of our waitress during the actual "tea whore" exchange between her and David. Actually, after it was over I called her back to the table, as if she had nothing to do but serve my every whim, and asked her if I could take her picture rolling her eyes at my husband and so, she did several very enthusiastic takes and ignored a bunch of other tables so I could get my shot and then she went back to the kitchen and spit in my eggs.

No, she didn't. I think.

She was a great waitress and a good sport. Her name is Sunny and if you go to Cafe Largo on Broadway and 138th Street, ask for her and tell her you are a food blogger and she'll pretty much do anything you want her to do on camera.

No, she won't. Just kidding.

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14 comments:

Emma said...

Fantastic! I'm British and live in Canada. I don't order tea anywhere for this very reason!! I am actually drinking my perfect cup of homemade tea right now as I laugh along with your post and agree with your hubby...now the question is milk before the water or after?!

grocer said...

I'm not a massive tea drinker but I am Australian and I'll go one further than david on this one - if I'm paying money for a cup of tea I expect it freshly brewed in a pot with real tea leaves.

If I'm at home a tea bag is just fine. But I'm not a huge tea drinker.

My parents on the other hand brew a pot every morning and evening and a few other times I suspect during the day depending on who's around and what cake mum has at the ready.

As for coffee... Now don't get me started on that!

Lucy said...

Too right, David.

In Italy, Umbria to be precise, you get a cup filled with hot water not from a kettle, oh no no, but straight out of the tap. Sheesh.

Needless to say, my reserved British/Australian thing went haywire.

Just sitting down to a properly brewed pot now. And bloody good it is, too. Gosh, wasn't Sunny a Good Sport?

melissa said...

I don't drink tea often either, but I used to. I have to admit I'm with David on this one. I would always put the bag in and then pour boiling water on top of it. My parents didn't drink tea, nor did really anyone else I know, so I have no idea where I got that from.

Still, the fact that he had to send it back... Sunny's eye roll photo is priceless. By request or no.

Izzy's Mama said...

That is simply too much..especially that your waitress was so agreeable. Did the two of you mock your husband together?

p.s. How lucky are you to have a husband who slings your baby. No wonder you want another. Mine wouldn't go near the sling.

Veronica said...

I think Tasmanian's are pretty laid back about tea and coffee. Maybe it's our second head or something.

But go to Victoria or NSW and I hear they are a little insane when it comes to hot drinks.

Rebecca (Foodie With Family) said...

I so feel David's pain. I'm such a tea snob that I actually carry my own tea with me in case I'm presented with Lipton (here's where I diverge from David- Lipton's okay, but only in iced tea form for me.) I carry a homemade bag of green loose leaf and one of some variety of black loose leaf just in case I'm given tepid water.

Yes, I am that obsessed.

My husband is a coffee snob.

The Yummy Mummy said...

OMG! You guys are tea whores, too! I knew the Aussies and Brits would come out en masse. You guys can always be counted on for a brisk tea debate. Thanks!

Just to let you guys know - I got an e-mail this morning from Sunny, who read the blog. She was a trooper and happy to be the butt of my little post - I really love a good sport...

xo Kim

ntsc said...

I'm with David on this one as well.

Properly it should be loose tea in the pre-warmed pot with boiling water poured into it then. And don't forget to pre-warm the cup before straining the tea from the pot into it.

I do it with tea-bags, but to have both the pot and the cup pre-heated.

The Yummy Mummy said...

NTSC - You are a primadonna. But in a good way.

That's all I gotta say...

Kim

SaintTigerlily said...

Ok, I started to write a whole comment on this but had to go ahead and turn it into a post because it was a seriously f-ing long comment.

Rebecca - agreed on the Lipton.

YM - 138th and Broadway! I think you live somewhat close to my hood!

Neen said...

Lipton? For shame... :) He deserves being made fun of a little for that :)

Cris925 said...

Although I'm an American, I am also very particular about my tea. However, I do have to agree with Rebecca, SaintTigerlily and Neen about the Lipton Tea. Whether the water is poured over the tea bag or not Lipton Tea is an absolute no no. In truth very few good teas come in bag form. There's a tea shop about a mile from my house and they sell some fantastic organic, sustainable teas; the latter two issues of course being a whole new spectrum to my obsessive compulsivec nature. The expression on the waitress's and David's faces however was priceless.

Piers Lyman said...

There many classes of tea. Sometimes it is served hot and at times its cold.