I am contemplating an affair. No dear readers, not THAT kind of affair. I'm contemplating cheating on a relationship that has been around much longer than my marriage -- my relationship with hot tea.
I've been faithful to tea since I was but a tween. It probably began when the Japanese restaurant moved to the town we frequented when I was about 12. They served hot green tea in cute little cups with no handles that I slurped up with abandon. It moved to steeping Lipton tea bags in hot water at home when I was a teen. Then in college on a class trip off campus to watch an international video that never materialized due to technical difficulties, I met Earl. Since we were meeting off campus and many professors were attending, we lowly college students were treated to a bagels and muffins breakfast complete with coffee and tea. My dear, sweet, precious friend Mary was there and offered me some Earl Grey. "What's that?" I asked genuinely ignorant. Being the sweet, precious friend she was, she tried to hide her shock and embarrassment for me and replied sweetly, "It's a kind of hot tea."
*Dear readers, have I mentioned that I grew up in a little town in East Tennessee that was "Country" with a capital "C"? Yes, I have mentioned this more than once? Oh, okay. Just wanted you to know.* Growing up in my house if you asked for some tea, you got a big old glass of iced tea that was so sweet your teeth would ache. My whole family loves iced tea. But hot tea? My parents still wonder why on earth you would want to ruin tea by drinking it hot and putting milk in it for goodness sakes. Needless to say, my knowledge of tea (and pretty much anything culinary that could not be eaten at a 'meat and three') was limited.
Trying to shake off my embarrassment, I agreed to give Earl a try. And we've been together ever since. Earl is my go-to guy. Yes, I love a good strong black tea in the morning such as English or Irish Breakfast, but at "tea time" in the afternoon an hour before my kids get off the bus and while my little one is still napping, give me a big old cup of Earl to drink with any carbohydrate, and I am a happy woman. If that carb happens to be freshly baked scones or little tea sandwiches, I am in heaven on earth!
My love of tea and "tea time" runs deep, so I am sure that Earl and his fellow teas will be a part of my life forever. But even though I love Earl, I'm having a hard time remaining faithful. I've started a flirtation with Lattes. *Everybody is drinking lattes, you say? I'm about 10 years late to this party, you say? Yes, dear readers I know. I am slow to change and have not wanted to jump on the java bandwagon. But have mercy, I cannot seem to help myself.*
I mentioned earlier that I have never been a coffee fan. I blame my mother. (Love you mom!) My mother is one of those women who drinks a scalding hot cup of coffee in the middle of a heat wave in July. To say she is a coffee addict would be a gross understatement. Coffee is not a drink to her, it is a way of life. And frankly, her coffee way of life is a slow one. I cannot count the number of dinners I endured as a child where I had to "sit still" while mom drank her after-dinner coffee. Then there were the afternoons she would spend at Miss Jane's house, the two of them drinking cup after cup of coffee while I was sent to another room "to play." I associate coffee with my mother so much so that one of my fondest pictures of her was taken at Miss Jane's house with a cup of coffee in hand.
So to me coffee was a stinky drink that was so much a part of my mother that I could never consider it to be part of me. Or if it was going to be part of me, it would be me when I was "old" and a mother. When I went off to college, I was told that after the first semester I would love both beer and coffee. While I did acquire a taste for a good margarita and vodka mixed with any fruit juice (in moderation, of course!), I never did acquire a taste for coffee. I got my caffeine from hot tea and iced cold Coca-Cola.
Even when Starbucks hit the scene in the South, I could not be swayed. Spend five bucks on coffee? Are you crazy? I'll pass on the grande mocha locha soy chai whatever it is you are serving at Starbucks and go with the $1.50 32 oz. Coke from McD's. But then Sonic started making lattes for $2.50 and gave a few of them away for free in the beginning. One of my first attempts at drinking coffee was basically a coffee milkshake from Sonic. After drinking two or three of those in one week while my husband was working out of town for the entire summer, I realized that if I kept it up, I'd weigh 300+ pounds when he got home and that probably wasn't a good idea.
So I moved on to Sonic's iced lattes, and every now and then a hot latte. Besides the chocolate and caramel syrup and whipped cream that make it so heavenly, I think what I love most is the JOLT of caffeine that I get. Having been a Coke and tea drinker my whole life, I am just not used to the massive amount of pep I get from the caffeine in a latte. It is amazing. It makes me feel like I can accomplish twice as much in my day. Why oh why haven't I been drinking this stuff for years! *Hi, my name is Lori, and I'm a caffeine addict.*
So I've been drinking an occasional latte at Sonic and yes, even Starbucks, for the last year or so. But on Wednesday, I took the plunge into real coffee. I went to my Bible study in the pouring rain and then sat shivering in the big air conditioned room like a drowned rat. The lovely ladies sponsoring this study had muffins and sweet bread and coffee for us all. I was freezing and a cup of hot anything sounded good. I contemplated drinking this "regular" coffee and then noticed they had hazelnut and regular creamer. I poured half a cup of coffee and then dumped in almost as much of both creamers. And it was drinkable, almost even good. Good enough in fact for me to drink two more cups. Did I mention I was wet and freezing? So now I realize that given enough creamer and sugar, I can even drink "regular" coffee.
The funny thing about my coffee drinking is that I still don't have to reconcile the fact that "I am becoming my mother." My mother, the woman who has coffee running through her veins, hates all things latte and Starbucksy. She thinks Starbucks makes the worst coffee on the planet. To her it is entirely too strong and she will drink her plain McD's coffee with a splash of milk, thank you very much. I find this comforting. Coffee is and always will be my mother's drink, not mine. But lattes, or a facsimile thereof, I think I'm falling love.