I grew up in a tea-drinking family. This is not shocking. In Trinidad, we're tea drinkers: generally breakfast tea, liberally embellished with milk and sugar, just as any good former British colonists would drink it. My parents drank Lipton's -- the most plentiful brand in Trinidad grocery stores -- and so I, from about the age of about 6 onward, drank Lipton's as well.
With lots of milk and sugar.
At the age of 33, on the eve of moving to England, I quelled any nerves that I might have had moving to a foreign country by comforting myself with the thought that I had grown up in a country that had many British ways. After all, I drank tea! With lots of milk! And sugar! Surely that was practically like knowing all the words to "God Save the Queen!"
When I arrived in England, I discovered, of course, that it was nothing like Trinidad, and it took me a good while to get settled into a social circle. I was likely far more excited than I should've been the first time my first British friend came over to my house.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" I said eagerly, as we came in from the cold, damp day.*
"Sure," he said.
I reached for my box of Lipton's.
"Uh, what the bloody hell is that?" he asked, aghast.
"That," he said pointedly, "is not TEA. That is dirty water. Please tell me you drink tea other than Lipton's."
"Dude, it's Lipton's. That's pretty generic tea, isn't it?"
"Well, what do you drink?"
"Anything but Lipton's."
"Like?" I was beginning to get annoyed.
"Well, like PG Tips, for one."
"Never heard of it."
"It's what most British families drink. Your average, common tea. But," he said, "it's better than that," pointing at my disgraced box of Lipton's. "I'll just have water."
Needless to say, soon after this encounter, I went to the store and bought a box of PG Tips. To be honest, I didn't really notice much of a difference in taste. But, I figured, since English friends were going to expect PG Tips, then PG Tips I was going to drink.
Months later, I returned to Houston to visit my parents. "Do you want a cup of tea?" my mom offered.
She made a cup of Lipton's for me, my first in a while. I took a huge gulp.
And I almost spat it out.
Suddenly, I could taste a huge difference between PG Tips and Lipton's, and I've never been able to go back. In Houston, PG Tips is often only available in specialty grocery stores, and if we're lucky, we can find it in the import section of our supermarket. It costs an unreasonable amount of money (our British friends are always shocked), but with as much tea as we drink around here, we pay the money to get our PG Tips. We beg friends who are coming to visit from Britain to bring us as many boxes as they can cram in their suitcases. And when we return to England to visit Marcus' family, we stock up before coming back.
Needless to say, Marcus and I have already begun teaching Alex to drink her tea. We prepare it very weakly for her.
With lots of milk and sugar.
* Which could've been any particular day, since every day I lived in England was a cold, damp day.
Images: Photo of PG Tips box and our kitchen table, complete with steaming hot PG Tips (with milk! and sugar!) in a mug Marcus painted, taken with my Nikon D300 and 50mm lens. This is my fourth cup of tea in furtherance of number 56 on my life list: taste 700 teas (Godhelpme).