Thursday, 26 May 2016

Making a cup of tea

should be done properly. Tea must be treated with respect.
Every Wednesday afternoon during the school term a friend calls in and has a pot of tea - yes, one of those small pots but all of it. It is the pot I use for the Senior Cat as well but she can drink the entire pot by then.
She has spent the time before that teaching knitting at a church craft group in the hills behind us. They have an "urn" on. It does not, according to her, make good tea.  I am certain she is right.
The Senior Cat  has certain requirements with respect to tea making. He likes China rather than Indian. He does not like exotic teas like Russian Caravan or Lapsang Souchong. He likes plain teas like English Breakfast. He disapproves strongly of tea bags. 
According to the Senior Cat tea must be made with rain water, not our city's tap water. The water must boil freshly in the kettle. The pot must be warmed.
I do all these things automatically. 
We once lived in a very remote corner of the state. There was no rainwater tank attached to the house when we arrived. (The house was "new" but it was also a badly put together fibro-asbestos one.) The Senior Cat informed the then Public Buildings Department that a tank was needed - urgently. It might rain. Actually it did rain that year.
Meanwhile there was a tank at the school. It was for drinking water only. I don't think there was a child in that small school who would have wasted any water.  The tap water, from a reservoir nearly two hundred miles away, was undrinkable in summer and not really drinkable in winter...but people did make tea with it. It tasted salty.
Visitors would arrive at the school and look for a cup of tea made with rainwater. 
We moved on to other places. There were tanks. I wouldn't like to count the number of times I was told at the end of the school day, "When you get back to the house put the kettle on." There was the afternoon when the wood burning stove in the kitchen was not alight and I had to set it going again as well as go outside and turn the gas bottle on - something we normally only used in the height of summer. The school inspector would be over shortly for a cup of tea! (He was very nice about waiting a few more minutes but I was terrified I hadn't been fast enough.)
But yesterday our friend W... came for her pot of tea. She can, if necessary, find her own way around the kitchen. I know she likes "proper" tea. Like the Senior Cat she likes it made with loose tea and freshly boiling water.
And for her, and the Senior Cat, tea comes in a cup with a saucer and a teaspoon for the Senior Cat.  (He has sugar.) I am always reminded of my paternal grandparents. I am reminded of the way my grandfather made my grandmother "breakfast in bed" - a tray of tea and toast, with butter and marmalade, and the tiny vase with the single bloom of something from the garden. When he broke the handles off the cups, which he did on occasion, he would go and buy a completely new cup, saucer and plate trio from the shop several doors down the road they lived on.  He taught me about  tea made with love.
I am a little less fussy. All those years living in institutions and working in schools and universities have made me appreciate that even getting something like that to drink is a bonus. I have left mugs in all sorts of places - mugs with handles I can hold easily. I went back to one place recently and I was offered tea. 
          "It's all right Cat. We still have your mug."
And yes, there it was. It was still in the cupboard. Nobody else had used it. It was still labelled with my name after three and a bit years.
Tea needs the right mug too. 

No comments: