Oh, Woe Is Tea! Getting a Cuppa in a Coffee Culture

March 19, 2010

For Friday, March 19, 2010

There’s nothing like a trip for activating my whiny complainery since there’s bound to be something that annoys me when I leave the comfort zone of regular routines. Besides, there’s one persistent problem I encounter no matter where I go. It’s almost impossible to find a good cup of tea anywhere.

I’m not even particularly picky. All I ask for is a cup of really hot water that isn’t vaguely coffee-flavored and hasn’t been microwaved, rendering it flat and funny-tasting, and a tea bag (see, I told you I wasn’t picky; I gave up loose leaf tea dreams long ago). Oh, and I want tea that tastes like tea and not like some flowery mango hibiscus kiwi fruit pine needle rosehippy stuff or—heaven forbid—Earl Grey with bergamot that’s like drinking a cup of perfume.

When I’m at home, it’s easy to get a good cup of tea, preferably Darjeeling. Not so on the road. There are a few coffee sellers who deliver a decent cup of tea, but not many, and most of them are oblivious to their shortcomings. They serve up lukewarm water. They use coffee and tea water dispensers interchangeably. They have only herbal teas and offer nothing with caffeine, which is sometimes the reason I want a cup of tea. I am not alone.

You can see all of us non-coffee-drinking-caffeinators at conferences and meetings scratching through the basket of tea offerings looking for something that will perk us up a bit and finding nothing but soothing sleepytime blends. You can also see us with empty cups holding fresh tea bags since the hot water runs out quickly and is seldom replenished. We are an optimistic bunch, always hoping that our minority will finally get equal treatment.

Once a hot water receptacle has held coffee, it is rendered forever unacceptable for use with hot water for tea. The water always tastes a bit coffeeish. Many of us are drinking tea because we don’t like the taste of coffee (except in ice cream, especially if it’s in a piece of mud pie) so we don’t want coffee-flavored water.

While I’m on a roll, I think it’s silly to charge for more hot water when I don’t need another tea bag or a new cup, just more water. This is especially irksome in places that offer free refills on coffee and sodas and provide glass after glass of ice water, but seem to struggle with the concept of providing more hot water gratis. I always appreciate the generosity that refills my cup without requiring me to beg. I still don’t understand, though, why tea is sold in different sizes in fancy coffee places when all I’m getting is the same amount of tea in a bag and the only “more” is water and a slightly bigger cup.

There’s a lot more that I could say about the whole coffee/tea thing. I won’t. And I won’t say anything about hot chocolate either.

What does any of this have to do with student success? Not much, except that when I’m grading papers, a well-brewed cup of hot tea does wonders to put me into a good mood for the task. I suspect that I’m not alone in finding hot drinks comforting. When I was a student, my youngest son used to keep me provided with pots of tea on weekend nights, staying up with me for celebratory middle-of-the-night Popsicle® outings when I was finished.

What’s your hot drink preference?

Wasn’t it Abraham Lincoln who said of a hot drink, “If this is tea, bring me coffee. If this is coffee, bring me tea?”



  1. […] Oh, Woe I&#1109 Tea! Getting a Cuppa &#1110&#1495 a Coffee Culture « zinnfull […]

  2. Without a doubt, a very hot cup of coffee. My favorite is a mexican mocha. Hot things soothe me (hot coffee, hot bath, hot chocolate, heating pads, my heater on high with the windows rolled up in the car).

  3. Golly gosh–I’m a windows down, cold air kind of gal in the car. I would fall asleep for sure! W-OZ

  4. Comment: I am one who loves a good cup of cappuccino, but very rarely. I would drink it more often if it weren’t for the acidic feeling in my chest afterwards. So, I stick with caffeinated drinks that don’t leave me feeling miserable for hours on end. I do enjoy a good cup of tea, Red Zinger, during cold weather. I was taught many years ago by a Pakistani man to add milk, or was it creamer to Lipton tea. I wish I could remember how what he used because I would certainly start drinking more tea; he made a first-class cup of tea.

  5. Lucky for me I’m a switch-hitter and can gulp down coffee or tea. I did start a tea kick a few months ago which allows me to empathize with the predicament of those who savor the flavor of hot, mud-free water with a splash of caffeinated leaves. Tea is quite delicious.

    Who besides me has school memories of the ‘coffee-breath’ teacher that couldn’t understand why you didn’t have time to enjoy their comments? Maybe the chance to be remembered as ‘not a coffee-breath’ teacher is reason enough to pledge allegiance to tea alone: At least on school days.

  6. I have worked in the food service industry for several years now, and am not much of a tea drinker. If I drink coffee, it has been morphed into a syrup-like substance with lots of sugar and milk. So I can’t really say much and making great coffee or tea. I had no idea that making the hot water in coffee pots that previously held coffee made a difference. Some places have a pour spout in the coffee maker that produces the hot water directly without having it go into the pot. I wonder if it makes a difference with the iced tea though, because that has to be made in the coffee pot. I will definitely keep your points in mind when serving tea in the future.

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