I never drank tea before I moved to Japan. There, it came in shades of green and black and barley; iced in the summer, steaming in the winter. Tea straight up, sometimes with bitter leaves or bright green powder swimming about in the smooth ceramic cup. Dozens of varieties in the store – loose, bagged, and bottled. Tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea before bed. お茶を飲んだら、元気に成ります! Tea, tea, tea. Gorgeous middle-aged Japanese women and their lifelong buckets of tea.
Ireland is also a tea nation. It’s black tea here – poured an inch or so away from the top of the cup to allow for a few cooling splashes of milk. Tea, tea, tea. Morning, noon, and night. You’ll have a cup, won’t you? Ah, go on. Have a cup, so. Help yourself to a biccie and a cuppa. Ah, go on. Go on, go on, go on.
I don’t like drinking my tea with milk – it’s delicious, but I can’t help but feel that all the health benefits are squelched by the cholesterol and fat. I drink the black tea straight up, as I did in Japan.
The looks I get.
“Ah, I don’t know, like,” tut the Irish. “Drinking it without milk. I don’t know how you do it.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“Not even a splash!”
They eat their biscuits. They watch me drink. They shake their heads.