tea classism

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The last time my boyfriend and I were in Belgium we had the pleasure to be invited by a whole bunch of friends for various meals, thus not only enjoying their company but also shamelessly being fed by different people everyday. I love eating. And I love being in other people’s homes. The fact that 3 out of 4 them also had dogs and were readily preparing vegan dishes for us (or letting us cook vegan for everyone) only made it better.

However there was one thing that struck us and ended up making me feel uncomfortable: tea. To be honest I’m not a huge expert on tea, so much by way of introduction. The only reason I know many types of tea is me having worked as a waitress in a restaurant with a ridiculously large tea selection. Which we had to know by heart in order to rain it down on unsuspecting customers, in case they would dare to ask what types of tea we had.
Apart from that we accumulated many teas in our flat ever since I made tea advent calendars for my friends and family, after which we got stuck ourselves with a ridiculously large tea selection (which then stayed there for ages, because it turns out we are not terribly experimental in that area).

But you might have already guessed it: when I talk about teas, I mean teas in fairly cheap little tea bags. No leaves here. No intricate, flavor-containing packaging. And so it came to be that I ended up feeling a bit out of space when one of our friends offered to make everyone a cup, upon which she spread a sizable collection of nicely packed organic teas on the table for us to choose. Monsieur and I shyly took one each, but as we both struggled to stuff the leaves into the infuser we looked at each other and realized we were thinking the same thing: at home we heat water in the microwave and then throw in a bag labelled peppermint. Which is fairly unromantic compared to bohemian raspberry and lemon vanilla tisane. And no, I wish I was making this shit up but I’m not. Recently we found a chocolate herbal tisane in the office cafeteria. Nothing can surprise me anymore in the tea kingdom. But while some of those names are just as silly is having 30 different packs of dried leafs in your cupboard (whether bagged or not), the situation still made me feel bad.

And then I realized why. The tea had become a metaphor to me. Not only the tea itself but having a proper teapot, a modern kettle, the cute sugar bowl and the ritual down to a science somehow seemed to mean that you had your life together. Surely someone who had matching Japanese tea cups was not hoarding dirty laundry behind the sofa. In fact, someone who is in possession of said cups is probably quite well organized, gets up at 6am and always has the spare time solve the crossword puzzle in the paper. Or so it made me feel.

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When we were in Scotland a month ago I bought myself those fancy looking tea bags. The name of this one is perfect peppermint, which on a compensational level is the equivalent of a man in his 40s owning a Ferrari. I liked the package and I liked the fact that I had bought them in a small take away restaurant on the Isle of Skye, where we – I kid you not – got custom vegan salads with seaweed. Which I guess comes close to the damn Ferrari having fancy rims or something. In the meantime my mother passed down her kettle to me. And well, I guess the metaphor still stands, but I feel a bit better, the water stays hot longer and I got my ridiculous little teabags looking nice in the Ikea cup. That’s one small step in the tea realm, but a leap for students getting their shit together.

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