Jem Beedoo

Jem Beedoo is an Auckland writer

Jem Beedoo: Tea, the drink that civilises

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Tea should be taken whenever it can be. Photo / Michael Craig
Tea should be taken whenever it can be. Photo / Michael Craig

Tea should be taken whenever it can be. It is what it is, and does what it does, better than any other consumable. "If you're feeling sad and lonely, there's a service I can render. Tell the one who loves you only, I can be so warm and tender." Although these are the words of that lyricist, Hal David, I feel these are words of tea to us, if tea had words. Tea, of course, is beyond words, as anything that boasts greatness is. In fact, tea is so great for improving the quality of one's life, I can't think of anything better.

It basically eases you into the zone of the hairy now. Oftentimes a man, or woman, feels pulled in 10,000 directions and struggles with the next phase of life. One wants instant results but, as reflected in the slow and gradual transformation from day into night, this mindset is impossible. Nothing of life-affirming calibre is ever characterised by a quick fix. Hence, tea will gradually couple you perfectly with what's in front of your very nose - the only thing that matters, really. It is a totally transformative experience. And it's so darn simple.

It is a marriage made in Heaven, a state of perfect romance: you have the click of the kettle, the ssssss of the steam, the brrrrrr of the boiling water, the loyal cup, the banged-up pot, the tea leaves, the milk, you have all the accoutrements, and they're all yours for that magical moment. Soothing you, composing you, transforming you in a gentle series of gentle sips, in a symphony of warm feelings, tea will take you there.

Behaviourally and physically, tea brings peace to people. When drinking coffee, one may experience anxiety, indigestion, sweats, headaches, delusions of grandeur, melancholia; the worthless works. Fruit juice is a ticket to indigestion and silly sugar rushes. I mean, how can you unwind over juice? It's gone in five seconds; it's there to make breakfast more bearable. Alcohol is the older brother of Death, Insomnia and Depression. Beer is only here to offset the brutality of the sun. And Water brings virtually nothing but survival to the table. None of this is true with tea. Tea civilises and brings out the best in us. Heck, you aren't very well going to fulminate and imprecate about sport, money, politics or sex over a lovely cup of tea, are you? Sheesh no. The gruffest of men will talk fondly about his mother's garden with a slick corporate chic chick over a cup of tea. This wouldn't happen over cocktails. Tea brings people together.

It's therefore no surprise tea is the go-to beverage at funeral aftermatches. Implicitly, the funeral tells us we're not going anywhere except underground or overboard, so why not catch up with old friends in an unhurried way? And what better way to set the tone and get in the groove than with a cup of tea and maybe a nourishing asparagus roll, or malty biscuit, or delightful scone? See, tea goes with almost any refreshment. You don't exactly see beer and chocolate eclairs walking hand-in-hand, do you? No, you do not.

Coffee is okay in these situations but it makes one feel too harassed, too harried, too jittery, making one anxious for the next mission. Tea takes the time to take the time and grounds you in the floaty now, which is very nice when you think about it.

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