An email this evening on the subject of tea reminded me that I sometimes think that I might be a tea addict.
After all, the very first thing I do every morning when I wake up is to grope my way to the kitchen, and put the kettle on. Then I’ll grope my way to the bathroom, if I can remember where it is, and by the time I’m back out, there’ll be kettle full of hot water in the kitchen.
And the tea is made with tea bags in a mug, and the milk poured in second, and a spoonful of sugar added last (back in my riotous youth it used to be three spoonfuls, and an analysis of my diet once revealed to me that I was getting half my daily energy input from mugs of hot sweet tea).
And then I totter back to bed with the mug of newly-made tea, and slowly drink it. And with the first sip, the waking-up process begins in earnest. I gradually begin to remember who I am, and how I got here, and what I was doing yesterday, and what I’m supposed to be doing today.
It takes me ages to wake up. It’s like slowly surfacing from about a hundred metres underwater, rising centimetre by centimetre until my head finally breaks surface, and I can climb out onto dry land. It’s as if my bed was not a spring mattress, but a bottomless pool of water. Some days I never quite manage to wake up, but remain suspended about twenty metres down, before sinking back down again in the evening.
These days, the very first thoughts of the day (after the thinking process has got slowly under way) are very often the principal ideas of the day. Last night’s blog post (“Don’t Stop”) was the product of the earlier first thoughts of the day. Perhaps this is because, as first thoughts, they haven’t followed on from any earlier thoughts, and can go off in any direction. Or, contrarily, it might be because the first thoughts of the day are the distilled wisdom of a whole night of dreaming.
Anyway, the first cigarette of the day usually comes with the first thoughts of the day. Tobacco is a thoughtful drug, and I really only ever want to smoke when I’m thinking. So the first cigarette of the day attends the first thoughts of the day.
And then, it’s mug after mug of tea (always accompanied with cigarettes) all through the day, except if I go out and sit outside a pub with a beer, and smoke a cigarette with that. Really, I wouldn’t mind if, along with the the hot and cold water taps in my kitchen, there was also a hot tea tap. And I drink tea right through the evening until, when I finally climb back into bed, I replace the tea with neat whisky, which usually has the effect of sending me back to the bottom of the deep pond of my bed again in fairly short order.
Now, it seems to me that, if I can be described as a tobacco addict (and I’m sure that many people would describe me as that), why not a tea addict as well? Drinking tea isn’t really any different from smoking cigarettes. I’m sitting there, probably in front of my computer screen, when all of a sudden I feel like, y’know, another mug of tea. And the craving for a mug of tea is usually much stronger than the craving for a cigarette. In fact, my smoking addiction is wholly secondary to my tea addiction. I very seldom smoke if I’m not drinking something – tea, coffee, beer, wine -.
And tea is a powerful drug. It really does wake me up. And this is never more vividly experienced than when somebody brings me a cup of tea in the morning, and places it on my bedside table, and for the next ten minutes I try to summon up the strength and determination to reach out and take a sip. And when (or rather if) I finally manage to summon up the necessary herculean strength and invincible will to reach out ,
Is this a teacup that I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not,
and yet I see thee still.
…I will be always be rewarded within minutes by a rush of wakefulness, and will find the First Thoughts of the day squeezing their way slowly and laboriously through the corridors of my brain. Cigarettes simply help focus the tidal influx of thought. It’s tea that governs the tides.
So why haven’t we got tea cessation hotlines? Why aren’t doctors telling people to cut down on their tea consumption, or, better still, quit drinking tea altogether. Why isn’t there a ‘tea patch’ – a Tea Replacement Therapy – which delivers caffeine or tannin or whatever it is that gives tea its peculiar rush? Why isn’t tea being blamed for cancer, heart disease, and every other malady under the sun? Particularly when tea stains the insides of my mugs, building up an accretion layer that can only be removed by intense scouring. I can only assume that, just as smokers are supposed to have black lungs, that tea drinkers must have black stomachs and intestines. And in my case, I’ve obviously got both.
Perhaps it’ll be the next big health scare? Tea causes cancer. And heart disease. And asthma. And biscuits cause cancer too. Particularly Rich Tea biscuits.
More likely, it’s that when the killjoy Nazi doctors and their minions are dreaming up their next assault on freedom, they’re usually doing so while sitting at tables, and stirring nice big cups of, yes,… tea.