A Nice Cup of Tea

teapotbooksandtea1Sydney, Tuesday

What is it about tea that makes it special?

I am a coffee-holic.  I love coffee, love that Sydney is a world class coffee city, and love to sit at Paris cafés with un petit café noir (or two).

Yet something strange has happened to me since I met Clive.

SInce I started living with a BritI’ve developed a fondness, and appreciation, for a nice cup of tea.

teapotallsortsA Morning Cuppa

Clive brings me a cup (mug) of tea in bed every morning, a luxury I’ve never had before and for which I am wholeheartedly grateful.

I used to start the day with coffee, but Clive changed all that.  He starts with a cup of tea with milk, but I still have mine ‘black’.  I can’t quite come to grips with the taste of milk in tea.

I’ve also learned that when someone says, “Would you like a cuppa?” they mean tea.  If you want coffee instead, you’d say, “Could I have coffee, please?”

Childhood Associations
teapotcupcakeIn my rather sheltered New Jersey childhood, I only had tea in two situations.

When my brother or I were sick, which was thankfully not often, our mother would give us tea with dry toast.  It sounds awful now, but it seemed to work and I still think of that combination as comfort food for an upset stomach.

The other time I had tea was when, as a teenager, I had painful menstrual cramps.  My mother had me lie down with the heating pad and brought me hot tea, sometimes with lemon.  The heat inside and outside my abdomen did help, and to some extent I still associate tea with ‘medicinal purposes’.

teapotvanIt’s an English Thing

From reading books about faraway places like England, I pictured tea-drinking as something done by prim and proper ladies sitting in a circle, putting their pinkie fingers in the air when they sipped from fine china cups.

By contrast, in the U.S., my own grandmother was always very proper.  But when she played bridge with her friends, they sat at a card table, drinking ginger ale and cream soda, never tea.

On my first trip to London when I was a single working woman, my friend said, “We must have high tea at the Ritz.”  It was a lot of fun, and the tea was served with cucumber sandwiches.  I still thought of tea-drinking as a female activity.

Real Men Drink Tea
It wasn’t until 1995, when we moved to Australia, that I met men who drank tea.  I’m sure it’s partly the English influence.

Our best friends in Sydney are tea drinkers, and never use teabags, only loose tea.  They would be horrified at the ancient, yellowing box of Lipton teabags found in my mother’s cupboard last year.  A box of teabags in my childhood home lasted for at least several years.

When we visit Clive’s father in England, the first question he asks after hugging us hello is, “Will I put the kettle on?”

teapotrecordsKettles, Kettles Everywhere

In my past life, ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’ was only a nursery rhyme.

Since being in Australia, and meeting Clive, ‘putting the kettle on’ has an entirely new meaning.

In 1998, when I bought my apartment in Paris and told my Aussie tea-drinking friends we had little in the way of furnishings, their first question was, “But at least you have a kettle?”

It wasn’t until 2006, when Clive and I went to Paris together for the first time, that we purchased a kettle for the apartment.

When I met Clive in 2005, getting a kettle for my house in Sydney became a priority.  And last year in New Jersey, when we were clearing my mother’s house, Clive took one look at the ancient little pot she used to boil water on the stove and said, “We have to get a kettle.”

I’ll Put the Kettle On

teapotgardeningI’ve noticed over the years that in many British movies and TV shows, whenever two people, often policemen, visit a home to deliver bad news, the roles are split such that one person gives the message and the other says, “I’ll make some tea.”

When Clive and I visit England, his family and friends always, always say, “I’ll put the kettle on.”  All hotels and B&Bs come with kettles in the room, and when we return from a day out walking, we often have a nice cup of tea.


Clive uses the word ‘soothing’ for a cup of tea, and I have come to see it that way, too, similar to but much nicer than the ‘medicinal purposes’ of my youth.

In times of stress or worry, there is something comforting about putting the kettle on and having a cuppa.  It’s a way of being in the moment and savouring a simple pleasure.  I understand the appeal of the Japanese tea ceremony, in preparing and serving tea peacefully and mindfully.

When Clive’s little grandsons stayed with us, the older one asked, “Why do you take Carolyn a cup of tea every morning?”

Clive said, “Because she likes it.”  Then the little guy carried it in to me himself.

I know how lucky I am.  Now, it must be time to end this post and put the kettle on. 


[Note:  all teapot photographs except the steaming one above are from Tony Carter Pottery in Debenham, Suffolk, England.  We visited this village and pottery cottage last year, and of course, while there had a nice cup of tea.]

Tony Carter Teapot Pottery, Debenham, Suffolk

Tony Carter Teapot Pottery, Debenham, Suffolk

12 Responses

  1. I still can’t get in to the tea thing. Thankfully DH has adopted the American love of coffee. But when we go visiting I always look forward to hearing, “I’ll put the kettle on.” 🙂

  2. I am much more of a coffee gal. When I do drink tea it is never herb. I do like English breakfast or Earl Grey on occasion. And I have to say, as much as I love France, the best coffee I have ever had is not from there but from Spain; the best coffee ever!!!

  3. ha ha – tea most certainly helps the world go round!! I would feel most deprived if I couldn’t have at least one cup of tea a day!! My sister in law doesn’t drink much tea (neither does my brother for that matter) but we do amuse her by making sure that the put the kettle on practically before doing ANYTHING else!! 😉

  4. We Brits are strange sometimes 🙂

    Oh yes …we always say …who’s for tea then…!
    Why don’t we say…Tea or Coffee…? ?

    But I do admit, there is nothing better than that first cup of tea in the morning…in bed is better, especially if it is made by someone else..it tastes soooo much better 🙂

    My husband had to take teabags on holiday to Italy…I was grateful after a few days…but I never ever have tea, when out on holiday…has to be cafe, cappucino, chocolate…

  5. The teapots in the post are DAH-LING!!!! I just love them… I really WISH that I could switch back to tea and stop drinking cawfee…. (just kidding, coffee!). But, for some reason, I usually drink tea only when I’m sick… Like I have to give up coffee and drink tea to improve my health! I feel like coffee is heartier, somehow and tea is so light… It’s much more relaxing… You have inspired me, Carolyn… I have a variety of teas that I bought at Aimee’s and that I still have from the States!!! When you come back to Paris- we’ll get together in the Paris Salon du Thés for some soothing tea!! Take care, Leesa

  6. Hi Carol,

    How I love tea!! I am not a coffee drinker at all, and I have many selections of tea. Australian loose teas are among my favorites. I so enjoyed drinking tea with my Australian friends when they spent their year in State College. PG Tips and Yorkshire Gold are two of my favorite British teas that are sold here in State College.

    When I am in Atlanta, I always try to go to this store called Teavana, and get a variety of loose teas: my current favorite is Mrs. Earl Gray. (I like regular Earl Gray too.) While many folks enjoy green tea, and it is supposed to be very good for you, I don’t particularly care for it, although I have some.

    My mother and I have quite a collection of tea pots, so I enjoyed the pictures that you illustrated your post with. Since I am teaching this semester at 8:00 and 9:05, and I don’t live far from campus, I am often home by 10:15 and ready for my cup of tea and consultation with my cat, Lizzy!

    I think tea is great whether one is sick or well. It is soothing as well as stress reducing as well as part of my everyday ritual. I don’t mind Lipton tea bags; I often get them when I am in the cafe at Penn State’s library. I also love iced tea, but only if made with real tea and not the fake stuff.

  7. I have become partial to a cup of tea since moving to Europe. There is something that happens to me around 5 in the afternoon that makes me head to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Lovely post, xv.

  8. Bonjour Carolyn,
    I’m a tea drinker first because of one reason; I could never stomach the taste of coffee. So, tea it is but since I’ve gone to the Loisiv’thé ( the teahouse that you have seen in Leesa’s or my blog), I started exploring more varieties.

    I loved the teapots too !
    As it is with food and drink, we often have emotional associations with some of them. I do agree that tea is soothing.

    Have a great day 🙂

  9. I’m a tea drinker as I never could get into drinking coffee. Have you had Mariages Freres Tea here in France? My favorite is Marco Polo Red. We drink tons of ice tea in the summer just using good old Liptons. I never add milk to my tea though.

  10. I loved these comments and perspectives! Thanks, all.

    Jumbleberryjam, you understand completely 🙂 Belette, I’ve only been to Spain once but still think Sydney and Paris are tops. Sam, very good about teasing your sister-in-law. Anne, yes definitely tastes better when made by someone else 🙂

    Leesa, enjoy all those teas you have (even if you’re not sick!). Eleanor, Clive said PG Tips had very clever ads way back when, with little chimpanzees (!?) all dressed up and sitting around a table drinking tea.

    Vicki, thank you and cheers to your evening tea in Europe. Barbara, enjoy the varieties – we are usually English Breakfast :). And coffee really is good!

    Linda, I’ve seen Mariages Frères and maybe we’ll try that or Marco Polo Red this coming trip. Thanks for the idea! I like good old Lipton, too.

    Cheers all.

  11. A great post about us funny tea loving types, thankyou for linking to it in my recent post after our visit to Debenham.

  12. Thanks, Lindyloumac! It’s so great you enjoyed your visit to this wonderful place in Suffolk 🙂

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