Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mug in hand...

....but no coffee in the mug this morning.  It's Lent.  I'm drinking out of the Eyore cup and there is some chai tea in it.  And I like chai -- though calling it chai tea is redundant, because "chai" means "tea." (As my son, Kevin likes to remind me..) If you put enough cream and sugar in chai, though, it's delectable.  Like dessert.  But, this is Lent.  Do you suppose it's cheating, substituting something I really like for something I love, something I crave?  Hmmm... 
Don't get me wrong, I do like the tea.  But it is a penance not having my cuppa coffee in the morning. And the mid morning.  And the early afternoon.  But, I can certainly develop the same habit with tea -- again.  You see, I actually drank tea more than coffee for a spate of time a few years back.  During my victorian cottage days, tea was the thing.  For years, I dressed, decorated, thought, and drank in the Victorian motif.  It was a phase I went through and seem to have grown out of.. 

But, it may be that there's something good and fine about the tea drinking part of it that I need to rekindle in myself. I need to develop better method and order in my life and the act of making a proper pot of tea is all that.  It's a ritual: there's the boiling of the water in the kettle and the whistle calling me to come when it's ready; then the heating of the pot with hot water from the tap before pouring the hot water from the kettle over the tea (bags, ball, or leaves) in the pot; then there is the five minute steeping time...  All this before the pouring into prettily painted teacups, complete with accompanying acoutrements: saucers, matching creamer and sugar bowl, teaspoons, spoonrests, and the tea cozy that covers the pot to keep it warm -- such a feminine and nurturing thing, a tea cozy.  You never saw a coffee pot with a little "sweater" daintily stitched to fit over it.  The tea table.  It's all so ordered and so feminine. Look at those lovely ladies sipping tea in the painting up there.  They're so elegant, so charming. 

So not me.

In the passing of years, I have to admit -- I've come to identify more with these ladies:

The coffee klatsch crowd. 

Though it's a lovely and picturesque idea... you know, being dainty and demure, or or even sophisticated and chahming like the tea ladies pictured up top -- I've been through too much to identify with it anymore.  Or aspire to it, really.  There's no sense in pretense. Those smiling ladies in the coffee klatsch crowd with their aprons and styrophome cups are beautifully picturesque to me now -- and more realistic. I understand them and the work and sorrow and happiness and grittiness of their lives, while the refinement and mystique of "tea time," with its image of lace and dainty sipping and time for gentility is a little vague and foreign. It's not my daily life.  It's not in my geneology.

Though a good cup of tea is definitely right there, taste-wise, with a good cup of hot chocolate, it can't match the history of coffee in my bones for flavor enhancement.  The sound of grinding beans -- just the sound of the words "grinding beans" -- speaks to my American working class ethic.  The humid, earthy smell of coffee drifting through the house grabs you by the nose and says: "Come and get it!"  Tea whistles and whines to be taken care of, then after it steeps, the brewed aroma more-like simpers up and taps you on the shoulder, hoping you'll notice. .) 

Where tea is softspoken, coffee is loud.  
Where tea is sophisticated, coffee is homespun. 

Coffee is..

White ceramic cups at midwestern truckstops,
Styrophome cups sipped at a traffic light . 
It's wood and steel and cables and hardworking tabletops,
Grounds like earth, honest and forthright.
It's Saturday morning with eggs and bacon, 
Starting another pot when the last cup's taken; 
All-nighters studying for final exams,
Up before daylight, preps and plans. 
Made on the run,
Pot set for dawn,
For round eyes and high fives
And days full-drawn. 

Brash and bold, the big brother of tea,
 Coffee is for going.  Coffee is for me


Sarah - Kala said...

T'is why I never ever give it up for Lent. Tea is great if I have time to brew it properly. I'll pray for you! I am a monster if I don't have at least one cuppa a day. I really enjoyed this post! Love that apron on that one gal in the picture. Reminds me of the ones my great aunt wore.

Annemary said...

I really respect the Lenten sacrifice you are making as I imagine it is a real sacrifice. It's a sacrifice that doesn't personally benefit one the way giving up sweets helps one lose those pesky five pounds that seem to creep on during the winter.

So, I'm giving up the sweets and thinking maybe I should have a glass of red wine in the evening so I don't personally benefit from the weight loss! Too bad I gave up wine and beer (not really a lush but I like a glass now and again). I'm putting my efforts into becoming a kinder and gentler version of myself as this will take a lot of self control.
Controlling my temper and being caffeine free just don't mesh.

Next year, I'll take a page from your Lenten journey and go coffee free. In the meantime, I'll say a prayer for you each morning... after I finish my java!

God bless!

Diana said...

Oh Lisa I loved this post! I love tea and Chai is one of my favorites! And the Victorian era, also my favorite! I loved your description of feeling better suited now for the coffee klatch crowd. I do love my coffee but tea too, My daughter(the 15 year old) thinks I am crazy because I must boil my tea water in the tea pot on the stove. She say's microwave is the way to go but I say it taste better our way! Your Coffee is.. was wonderful!
Love Di

MightyMom said...

whistling tea kettle??

tea pot??

dainty cups???

tea cozy????


get a bag from the shelf....stick it in a cup...put water from the tap....zap 2 min in the microwave...add sugar and milk and drink.

I dunno WHAT the rest of that nonsense (or nonsensical stuff) is referring to!