For years now, I've been trying to develop a taste for tea. Tea has so much to recommend it: tons of antioxidants; a strong aesthetic tradition and a world of adorable pots and cups--not to mention cozies-- to go with it; not enough caffeine to keep me awake at night, and so on.
So why am I not drinking as much tea as I think I should? Because I'm drinking coffee.
Compared to coffee, tea, whether green or black, lapsang-souchong, darjeeling, orange pekoe, Irish breakfast, or gunmetal, seems to me anemic, namby-pamby. Even when sweetened, it never tastes like much more than slightly bitter H2O. Whereas a good cup of coffee can take the place of dessert, can be almost as satisfying (if memory serves) as smoking a cigarette, can revive the flagging animus. It tastes of chocolate, of red wine, and best of all, it tastes and smells strongly and unmistakably of what it is: coffee.
During my recent years' immersion in British literature, I have read thousands of accounts of tea made, served, and drunk in every possible circumstance, from the sordid to the exalted. And I am no closer to understanding its hold on the British, just as I do not--and never hope to--share their taste for marmite.
Perhaps there is nothing I can do about it. Perhaps there are coffee people and tea people, just as there are dog people and cat people. But I have loved and lived with both dogs (the coffee equivalent) and cats (more of a tea kind of pet), so I see no reason I shouldn't bridge the coffee world and the world of tea as well.
For years, believing that coffee was not good for me, I gave it up in favor of tea--usually green tea, never in a bag, made with water at the recommended temperature. Every time I drank a cup, I wished it were coffee. Then this year, hearing that women who drank two or more cups of coffee a day were significantly less likely to be depressed than those who drank less or none, I threw myself back into the arms of coffee. Black, strong and full of attitude, it leaves me, after each encounter, satisfied, exhilarated and a little shaky.