PART 1: A CUP OF TRENDY TEA

“A cup of trendy tea? Ah, go on, go on, go on…”

Loose tea is making a comeback. It’s becoming more trendy than coffee and it is sparking off a lot of memories for me, like laughing my head off at Mrs Doyle’s fixation with tea in Father Ted. “Ah go on, go on, go on,” she repeatedly said, when anyone refused a cup.

Very few refuse it round here. In fact, we all like our tea.

The other day my son asked me for a cup. He walked into the kitchen while I was making it and when he saw the strainers and tea pots, and a packet of loose tea he said, “Hey, what are you doing?” “You said you wanted tea?” He touched a tea strainer that looks a bit like an overgrown nappy pin. “Oh,” he said, “Is it green tea?” “Sometimes it is, but not this time.” I tell him, suddenly realising that my 17 year old, soon to be a man, probably never saw loose tea before.

As a child I only remember loose tea. ‘Real’ tea my Mum called it.

Tea was a ritual in our house. It was a coming together of everybody whether you wanted tea or not. It was a time to sit and talk. But the best bit was the reading of the tea leaves. Mum would turn and twist the cup. ‘You are going to travel.’ ‘A big surprise is on its way.’ ‘You will receive a letter soon.’ ‘Someone is going to give you money.’  Getting your tea leaves read was pure magic!

Truth be told, I wasn’t much of tea drinker. I only took a small cup so I could get my tea leaves read. When I went to study in Belfast I stopped drinking tea. Coffee was trendier but I still owned a teapot and kept teabags in the cupboard for visitors. One morning a workman arrived early to do a job for me. I opened the door and greeted him. He checked what I wanted done before heading back out to fetch his toolbox. When he came back in I was standing at the sink with the kettle in my hand.  “Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked.

The man looked at me, put down his toolbox and said “Where are you from?” I was surprised at his reply but before I could answer he said, “You’re not from the city anyway. I have been working here for years and I can’t remember anyone ever offering me a cup of tea.”

I can’t make a judgement on city folk and their hospitality but where I came from, in rural Tyrone, anyone who darkened our door ‘had’ to take a cup of tea. Mum wasn’t as bad as Mrs Doyle. She didn’t say “Ah go on, go on, go on.” She just made the tea and everyone took a cup. Despite the fact that I didn’t drink tea much, Mum’s tea-making ritual that welcomed visitors and friends, and made everything better, was deeply ingrained in me.

Now I’m back drinking tea again inspired by a tearoom in France and Buddhist monks. Yes, it turns out Mrs Doyle and the Buddhist monks have something in common, a love for tea. But I’m all out of space so you’ll have to wait until next week to find out why a trendy cup of tea is good for you, not only the tea but the ritual of tea-making, and  I’ll give you a few tips on how to have a mindful cup of tea. “Ah go on, go on, go on…”

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