Friday, May 26, 2006

Sweet Tea

It is a strange legacy of our colonial past that tea drinking has become synonymous with British culture around the world. Indeed the first suggestion thrown at me by a chirpy policeman as I staggered out of the tunnel on 7th July was ‘I know it might sound strange love but I think you should have a cup of tea’.

I drink my tea strong, hot and without sugar. Earl Grey and Lapsang Suchong fall dead on my palette. A day cannot begin until a PG pyramid bag has been soaked, squeezed, diluted with milk and poured down my throat before it has had a chance to become tepid. As the hours progress my taste buds awaken, later I can accommodate green, white and even peppermint, but never, in the run of daily life, can my tea be swallowed sweet.

Twice, however, in the last eleven months I have guzzled this sickly substance as if it were nectar to my body. You know that something extraordinary is afoot when as soon as the bottom of the mug is in sight you ask for a refill and the sweetening of the liquid has passed undetected. During the normal stream of every day life it takes but a splash to hit my lips and my mouth rebels in horror and shock. On the 7th July, and again yesterday, this velvety substance was absorbed as if my very existence depended on it. It tasted like life itself and my body cried out for more. It is surpassed only by the dunking of a digestive biscuit, together they form an experience unparalleled to a shocked and weakened soul.

Sublime as the moment was, I can safely say that enough is enough. I have drunk more than my fair share of sweetened tea. If the need ever arises again I know it will be there to sooth and comfort, but for a while, at least let the sour tea live on.