When you first start, taste has nothing to do with it. For me it was a window into the life I wanted, the person I wanted to become - a writer, a citizen of the world, even. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, I used to have to travel two full hours to get a hit, and I’d stand there trying to pronounce the glamorous names and feel like the world was full of possibility. Then I’d sit in the dark corners, writing in my notebook about all the things I was going to do one day, once I was old enough to do what I wanted. I’m talking about coffee, by the way - it’s my drug of choice and the hook is in deep.
At home my parents would drink a pot of light-brown, thin coffee each day, made on the MoccaMaster. It tasted bad, I thought, but kids weren‘t expected to like coffee so I figured that would change. It didn’t, and that’s because that stuff is rubbish. I brought home espresso from the city, bought in a little shop I located with my nose. I’d choose my beans based on the exotic names, as I had no idea what else to look for. It all smelt of something sophisticated to me, and I wanted to be part of it regardless of whether it was Java or Sidamo. I drank it at home sitting on the back porch looking over the wheat fields, dreaming of life happening elsewhere.
The coffee thing started out quite cute and dreamy, sure, but fast-forward a decade and my relationship with the black stuff is less that of aspiration and more akin to addiction. I don’t have that many cups a day, granted, but if addiction is measured by how you feel when you’re deprived I am in deep water. I exist in some sort of animal-state in the morning before the first cup is down, and, my body is still sleeping until the second one has kicked in. A boyfriend once tried to suggest maybe I could hold off on coffee until we could have a sit-down together? The relationship ended soon after.
It’s been a gradual process, getting to this point, and I think I can safely say it’s not fun anymore. Coffee was once the stuff of dreams, but the love affair has definitely gone bitter. Without my caffeine I get mean, or sluggish - usually both. It’s me and my cafetière versus the world now, like Gollum and the One Ring, and my sanity is hanging in the balance. But then one day I smelled something - it was hot and fresh and a lot like tar. ‘Lapsang Souchong,’ my friend called it, ‘you know, tea?’
I have never been a tea drinker. It’s watery and sort of stale, I’ve always thought, but as I picked up the box of Lapsang and inhaled, it brought up images of my late grandpa’s boat workshop. I have workmans’s blood, that’s what the Lapsang reminds me of when I struggle to shake off my morning inertia. The drink is still rich enough to have substance, but whereas coffee feels dark, drinking the smokey brew makes me feel light and sort of clean. If coffee was about breaking out and away, then tea might just be about belonging. I drink it sitting at my desk, looking out the window but now I’m happy to be here. The only problem is I keep forgetting to take out the tea bag, so the brew is always a little too strong - just like my coffee.