Tuesday 4 December 2007

Tea or Coffee?

I love a coffee in the morning, but throughout the day I'm a tea man. Tea is more subtle - its flavours are slowly coaxed from the leaf by infusion while the essence of coffee is blasted from the bean by force. And tea is lighter and more refreshing. Listen to the hypnotic jingle of the stirring spoon: in tea it is high pitched, sprightly and musical; in coffee, monotone and serious. Tea is pleasure, coffee is business.

Of a heavy, tired morning, I simply need coffee. I like mine with lots of milk and just shy of being hot. I take large mouthfuls and swirl the liquid around my mouth, inviting the lactose and caffeine to contest their differences over my tongue. Lactose is a strong starter but the drug always prevails. The result is delightfully bitter-sweet. Best of all, the dutiful caffeine sets to work immediately. It conquers lethargy and defeats gloom, allowing colour to seep back into the office greys.

But if coffee is necessary to launch the day, tea is required to sustain it. A cup at three is the mainstay of my afternoon. On the odd occasion when I have to miss it, my whole day collapses. After lunch the lazy clock runs slow , and tea at three gets it moving again. On particularly long days a second cup is needed after 5 to repel the plodding soldiers of tedium.

At home tea is king because it can be made to perfection. Tea tends to get set in its ways and hates change. A new tea pot or an extra minute can destroy it. The pot must be scalded and I heat the cups as well to make sure. I give the flavours enough time to timidly emerge from the leaves and I pour each cup half way first and then top up in reverse order. This guarantees consistency.

It is easy to understand why the Japanese developed a ceremony based on tea. You see, making tea is a ritual. While coffee is individual, tea is social. It brings people together and kicks off the conversation "do you like yours strong or weak?". "Milk or sugar?". Before the first sip strangers are on talking terms.

In some ways tea feels older because, especially in Ireland, it came way before coffee. In that sense tea is nostalgic. When I think of perfect tea, served repeatedly throughout the day, I think of home. It brings me back to an earlier time. While the latte is unashamedly modern and chic, tea remembers tradition.

In coffee I have found a necessary acquaintance, someone to meet for a time to bridge the gaps. I have no loyalty to it. If I gave up work tomorrow, coffee might well be jilted too. But tea is a soul mate. It deserves - and gets - my respect. The passion is heartfelt. Coffee may well be a phase, but tea is for life.

7 comments:

Vince said...

Well now, not the most kind. What happens when a guest asks for both milk AND sugar. Or Lord help us lemon instead of milk. But all told, the camellia is pretty good. And when you finish with the coffee, you can use the plunger thing to make the Cha, the thin glass of the beaker just does something.

Anonymous said...

Coffee puts the system under the strain of metabolizing a deadly acid-forming drug, depositing its insoluble cellulose, which cements the wall of the liver, causing this vital organ to swell to twice its proper size. In addition, coffee is heavily sprayed. (Ninety-two pesticides are applied to its leaves.) Diuretic properties of caffeine cause potassium and other minerals to be flushed from the body.

All this fear went away when I quit, and it was a book that inspired me to do it called The Truth About Caffeine by Marina Kushner. There are five things I liked about this book:

1) It details--thoroughly--the ways in which caffeine may damage your health.

2) It reveals the damage that coffee does to the environment. Specifically, coffee was once grown in the shade, so that trees were left in place. Then sun coffee was introduced, allowing greater yields but contributing to the destruction of rain forests. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else.

3) It explains how best to go off coffee. This is important. If you try cold turkey, as most people probably do, the withdrawal symptoms will likely drive you right back to coffee.

4) Helped me find a great resource for the latest studies at CaffeineAwareness.org

5) Also, if you drink decaf you won’t want to miss this special free report on the dangers of decaf available at www.soyfee.com

Anonymous said...

Top 6 Reasons (Not) to Drink Tea

1- The chemicals used to remove caffeine from tea are carcinogenic as there is no swiss water method as with coffee.

2- The caffeine in tea takes twice as long to eliminate from the body.

3- Depletes the adrenal glands just like coffee

4- Decreases melatonin production = sleep disorders like insomnia

5- Caffeine acts as a diuretic (by the way, caffeine is a strong diuretic, which depletes the body of certain vitamins and minerals, such as “C”, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and potassium

6- All teas contain flouride. Flouride is accumulative toxin. Only 50% of this poison is excreted from the body per day. The other half stays and accumulates, particualry in the brain & bones. Water contains lead & aluminium. Flouride attaches to lead & aluminum ions and heightens accumulation and increases these toxins metals to the brain. Aluminum flouride showed capacity to damage brain and kidneys in lab rats

Vince said...

Roy Foster has given a look in the LRB on Bew. This as 'news' rather than issue.

kelly d said...

Anonymous - what a buzz-kill you are!

Hugh Green said...

I drink so much tea I've been thinking about getting a catheter inserted to allow me to drink more without toilet breaks.

Tomaltach said...

Hugh - very good ;-)