“You make a lousy cup of tea.” My friend remarked after we had returned to his home after a day of touring parts of his stomping grounds in London. Graham had proclaimed that it was tea time and requested that I prepare it.
I proceeded to mimic Graham’s time-honored technique for his version of English tea. While the water was coming to a boil in the family’s electric kettle, I warmed portions of milk in two cups in the microwave. When the water reached boiling, the kettle automatically switched off. I waited a minute, then added the water to the heated milk. Additionally, two teaspoons of sugar went into Graham’s cup. (I don’t usually use sugar.) The last step was to place a “pyramid” bag of ground tea into each cup.
I then carried the steaming beverages to the living room for us enjoy. After a few minutes of steeping, Graham removed his teabag and sampled the tea. That’s when he remarked about my tea brewing skills. I don’t know if his comment was an observational judgement or if he was only joking. English humour is an acquired taste, and Graham frequently makes puns and jokes.
The next afternoon, we were invited to Graham’s mother-in-law’s middle class home for tea. The semi-formal event is one I’ll always fondly remember. We had a charming visit. The hostess also recommended many off the beaten path places I should visit. Tea time was rather fancy. The tea was served in clear glass cups. Milk and sugar were presented inside a matching contemporary, clear pitcher and bowl set. Small sandwiches and cakes were served with the tea.
Perhaps my tongue is not as well-trained as Graham’s; however, the tea served by his mother-in-law tasted like the tea I had prepared the previous afternoon. I later mentioned this to Graham, and he gave out a belly-laugh.
I still don’t “get” English humour. On the other hand, once in awhile I will treat myself to afternoon tea time instead of the usual afternoon coffee break. Sometimes I even prepare the tea with sugar.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the novelist, Henry James. “Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”