I smile at myself as I put the kettle on just now. I don’t drink tea. There’s something about the hot sweetness which is, as comforting to some, not to my liking. But today, right now, I need a cup of tea.
Tea is England to me. I sit back with the warm mug clasped in my freezing hands, and as I sip my tea, I am transported in time. 11 o’clock was tea time. If the kitchen didn’t have their tea by 11:00, you could know lunch was going to be chaos. It might be all in the mind, but when you’re 1000’s of km’s away from home, it’s cold and you are prepping ingredients or mopping floors and setting tables, you need to strengthen yourself for the day ahead…and the tea saw us through.
Which is why I started having tea as well. There is something comforting about feeling the warm fluids making their way to your tummy, with the gloomy gray lurking outside. And when I got back to the restaurant after grocery shopping, soaking wet (for some reason undercover parking is not a priority for them) and chilled to the bone, a mug of tea somehow got life in all the limbs again before service started.
It became a ceremony of some kind. We started working at ten. It was a race to finish enough of the duties before eleven. Then the front staff made the tea, and we all lounged around in the kitchen, enjoying the moment. Sometimes we clubbed in for a box of Ouma Rusks from the shop upstairs, and other days I would bring a treat from Morrison’s. During the slow weeks the tips were used sparingly and we settled for just tea.
It seldom lasted more than 5 minutes, our little tea time. But the memories surrounding it lasts forever. My cup is cold now. I won’t have another. I still don’t like tea very much. But I love my trips down memory lane. And a cup of tea helps sweeten them up.