Tea snobs of the world, unite

It's time to put an end to beverage discrimination at cafes.

Penelope Whitson

Given that it is winter, I’m quite partial to a warm drink to slurp while pondering the latest atrocity I’ve been given to edit. Much to my sadness, the novelty of the soy chai latte has worn off. It was bound to happen. Sooner or later I had to see past the sweet frothy deliciousness to the fact that basically I was buying milk with syrup. When what I really wanted was a well-made chai latte involving actual tea leaves and spices. Properly made, these are awfully good, but they’re hard to find. Because syrup is quicker. Possibly cheaper? Sorry, ‘more economical’. At any rate, it’s farewell soy chai latte and hello ... definitely not the white chocolate chai latte.*

What I do know is that I don’t drink coffee.** So I need an alternative for all those times we ‘go for coffee’. For a while it was hot chocolate. But I actually got to a point where I couldn’t have one every day (14-year-old me hates what I have become). So then it was tea. I am, after all, a tea trollop, by which I mean I’ll drink all kinds. However, this past year I have refused to pay $3.50 for a cup of hot water and a tea bag – people ought to be spanked for charging that much for this combination – especially when it doesn’t even come with a biscuit.

If I’m going to buy tea for an inflated price, I want it done properly. With a teapot. And tea leaves. This could seem tiresome for cafes. To which I say: you make a massive bloody fuss out of your coffee – do the same for tea. If you’re not serving Nescafe, you shouldn’t be serving tea bags. Show me your tea leaves and I’ll show you my cash.

If I wanted tea bags, I’d buy a box of them.  And don’t give me that ‘you’re paying to sit in a café’ nonsense. If I’m paying to sit in a café I would also prefer to pay for a quality cup of tea. In a pot. With leaves. And so what if I’m ordering to take away? If you’re prepared to wait for a decent cup of coffee to walk the streets with then accept that I am equally prepared to wait for my tea to brew before striding out there with you.

For tea nerds like myself I suspect ‘proper’ tea would become a point in an establishment’s favour – worth waiting for and all that. I’d queue up for it. I’d even hand over my much loved cash for it. And suggest that the establishment consider making proper chai lattes next.

Sure, you could call this love for leaves snobbery. It is. Just like coffee drinkers expect ‘proper’ coffee, I expect proper tea. Indulge me.

* The white chocolate chai latte was never to be repeated madness.

**I have tried to drink coffee. There were the instant years at university, the cappuccino years when I moved to Wellington and embraced ‘café culture’ and then finally the realisation that proper coffee just isn’t my cup of whisky. I need such an obscene amount of sugar to make it palatable that I start to resemble an ugly meerkat. All wide-eyed and nosy and even more prone to ranting than usual.

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