I encountered my first tea-drinking crisis when I was in my first year at Aberdeen University. I had a room in Halls, which was very well kitted out, apart from having nowhere to keep milk cold. No problem, I thought! Aberdeen isn’t exactly renowned for its tropical heat, so I put my milk on my windowsill. Problem solved: for all of two days. Aberdeen may not be renowned for its tropical heat; but it is renowned for its enormous and plentiful seagulls. It seems that I wasn’t the first person to have the windowsill idea, and the seagulls had learned to knock the milk off the windowsill and drink it. How clever.
But all was not lost. My mother is not one to shy away from a challenge, and she sent me the perfect solution: a tin of powdered milk. Grim, grim, grim. I learned to drink my tea black.
My second tea-drinking crisis came when I was ill. I was told to avoid all stimulants, including caffeine, which apparently included tea. It seemed excessive but I was prepared to do whatever it took to get better. Luckily, Alexander McCall Smith had started publishing his books about the No1 Ladies Detective Agency, and I knew that Rooibos, or Redbush, tea didn’t have caffeine, and was drunk by very smart ladies.
At first, very few cafes and restaurants offered it, but to my delight, as time wore on, more and more places were starting to stock it: hooray! But to my horror I am once again facing a tea-drinking crisis. If not a catastrophe. It seems that the hospitality industry aren’t content to rest on their tea laurels and let that be that. No. Instead they are obsessed with serving an ever-changing variety of adulterated teas. Citrus fruit, vanilla, honey, lavender. Lavender tea??? What?!? The other day I was in a cafe and I asked if their ‘Scottish Rooibos’ tea was plain Rooibos tea. Yes of course, said the waitress, five minutes before she served me honey flavoured rooibos. Sigh!
So where does this leave me? I’m quite limited in terms of what I like to drink. Rooibos Tea, Green Tea (and don’t get me started on the flavours they put in that!), Camomile Tea (again, leave it alone people!), water, wine, vodka. So if I’m in a cafe, and all the teas I like are adulterated with crappy flavours they don’t need, I’m left with water. Which I kind of object to paying for when I can just have tap water. But I don’t want to take up a table just drinking tap water. So unless you want me tipsy at 10am, can you please, please, let tea be tea.