You knew it was coming — the inevitable tea post!!!!!!1!!!!11!!!!!1
Tea is Northern Ireland’s center of gravity — everything else revolves around it. You know that ultra basic T.S. Eliot quote about measuring out life in coffee spoons? People here measure out their lives by metric ton of used tea bags. It’s NI’s panacea — tea is used to soothe virtually any and all situations.
“Your husband left you?! Ach, pet — I’ll put the kettle on.”
“IT’S HALF THREE? WET THE TAE!”
Translation: It’s 3:30? Make some tea or else!!
“You’ve just been in a road accident? OH MY WORD, THAT THERE BONE IS STICKIN’ OUT, SO IT IS — cuppa.”
In fact, at the company where I worked a few months ago, there were two 15-minute designated tea breaks (10:30am and 3:30pm). Everyone lived for the flippin’ tea breaks, myself included. Oftentimes the 15 minutes would casually slide into 45 minutes, reminding me of the Munchkins’ song in Wizard of Oz:
We get up at 12 and start to work at 1
Take an hour for lunch,
And then at 2 we’re done!
Jolly good fun!
I’ll be the first to admit that I love, love, love tea culture, though my habits have changed as of late! Some of you longtime readers (Mom) may remember when I lived in London and reused my tea bags, much to the horror and astonishment of my English friends. Well, I’ve seen the light. I’m no longer a pig wallowing in my own crapulence, so rejoice, British overlords: you won. Now I’m super fussy about my tea.
First of all, Punjana is where it’s at. DON’T EVEN TRY TO GIVE ME TWININGS. Secondly, you gotta get some milk in that teezy. No sugar unless you’re a cracked-out hedonist. ALSO: tea tastes best when sipped from a thin-lipped cup. DELICATE, YO. And you’d better be making this face:
To add to the unending confusion of NI slang, “tea” has double-meaning here. There’s the usual usage — steeped drink — but it also means dinner.
Look at this mess. Try to figure out which questions are referring to actual tea, and which to dinner.
1) “Have you had your tea?”
2) “Would you like some tea?”
3) “Want to come for tea?”
4) “What do you want for tea?”
I know, I know. Here’s the other thing — whenever someone enters your home, you are obligated by law to offer them tea. I recently learned this when we had workmen come to our house to install new doors. As he was leaving for work, Matt casually said, “oh yeah — don’t forget to give the work guys tea.”
I immediately had so many questions. How would I know when to present them with said tea? How would I know how they take their tea? Do I give them biscuits? HOW MANY BISCUITS PER PERSON?
I texted all of these questions to Matt, and he said to offer as soon as they arrived. I did so, and asked the guys how they liked their tea. “One sugar in each,” they said.
I had to text Matt again. Was it just UNDERSTOOD that there would automatically be milk in the tea? So they didn’t need to mention it? Or are they FREAKS who drink black tea with sugar?! Matt said to add the milk.
I presented the guys with their steaming mugs and with a ridiculously large amount of Tesco Value custard creams. I only found out later, after only ONE of the creams was eaten, that apparently custard creams are garbage biscuits at the bottom of the tea snack pyramid (tea snack hierarchy post forthcoming).
We had originally bought them because I’d never had a custard cream. Well, I tried one of the rejects off the workmen’s plate. It was basically a chalk sandwich.
P.S. – Matt came home during his lunch break to see how the doors were going. The workmen complained to him that his American wife had only offered them one cup of tea. I immediately made them more tea and then cried for 2 weeks.