Thursday, 17 November 2011

(In Praise) Of Teabags and Nescafé

What sparked this off? I'm neither a teablogger nor coffee afficionado. And yet something I read recently struck a chord, and sparked off an "Intercultural Musing."

I've always liked tea, and have never been very fond of coffee. I don't mind it, mind. I find these either/or, only this/never that decisions that people make in their lives tedious. Cat or dog? France or England? Beach or mountains. I always say "both!" to all of them.

So okay, I prefer tea, slightly. My memories of coffee are exclusively associated with Germany. Relatives coming "zum Kaffee". The table already layed at their arrival, tablecloth, tiny forks ("Kuchengabeln") - and in the kitchen, something that smelled good. Coffee brewing. Many, many spoonfulls of ground coffee ladled into a "Melitta"-Filtertüte, the drip drip of the coffee machine would soak the ground coffee into a hot brown, fairly obscene looking dark brown mess. Then the pouring into the tiny cups at the table. Lots of milk,. sometimes cream. The result? An infernally evil tasting brew, indescribable in its glissando of sour and bitter. Maybe foul is the only word to describe it. The fuss, the taste. "Noch jemand Kaffee?" Err, no thanks.

Coming to England changed all this. No coffee machines, no brown disgusting mess to be disposed of. No Kuchengabeln, Milchkännchen*.. no fuss. Nescafé in a mug - hot water, milk straight from the carton, if any. (Since changed, obviously - but Nescafè is thankfully still very popular).

Relief. A new world. Freedom.

Tea: A teabag in a mug. Hot water. Milk, sugar if you wanted. Glorious. If you never had a cup of tea made from a teabag of English (origins unspecified) Breakfast tea in a mug, you have no idea how good tea is. And equally importantly, how blissful the escape from fussiness is. I will never own a Milchkännchen, neither will I be the proud owner of a tea basket, tea egg or tea sieve. No brown sludgey mess of tea leaves or wet coffee. The embarrassing word "barrista" will not be used, and the condescending chatter of tea snobs will not be heard.

That's the sort of self-confidence changing countries gives you.

*A tiny milk jug matching your cups and saucers in design.