Coffee v Tea

Molly, my sister, and I fell out,
And what do you think it was about?
She loved coffee and I loved tea,
And that was the reason we couldn’t agree.’

That is one of my daughter’s favourite nursery rhymes at the moment. Now I don’t want to have to take sides, but if I do, I’ll side with Molly. As a tea and coffee drinker I can say I’ve never understood this taking sides business. In Ireland though, there are many who drink tea only. It is one of the many subtle cultural differences I have noticed since moving here and tea drinking is given a real reverence in this part of the world compared to those down-under. For New Zealand and Australia there are more rituals that revolve around the drinking of coffee.

The ‘Flat White’ – A New Zealand invention??

I’m not entirely sure when cafe culture took off in Australasia, but it is there to stay with young professionals literally guarding their morning lattes with their lives. We have something specific to the region called a ‘flat white’ which is essentially espresso topped with steamed milk as opposed to the extra froth and milk in the ‘latte’. Invented in Australia and perfected in New Zealand, the flat White is very popular. You can even find it in London in cafes where baristas have that southern hemisphere twang. I was lucky enough to spend my early twenties in Ponsonby, one of the main suburban cafe hubs in Auckland and there was a real ritual around coffee drinking. But the same can be said for tea in Ireland.

In the Irish office, a round of tea’s is more common than a round of coffees. If I was to make rash generalisations I would say that it is women of a certain age that are normally tea only drinkers and by osmosis perhaps the ‘mammy’s boy’ sons of these same tea ladies. It is a habit passed from one generation to the next. When there is no coffee in the house, why would anyone take it up?

I am trying to think when I had my first coffee. It’s difficult. My first tea was definitely at my Nanas house. She gave us tea at breakfast time when we were kids. That was a time when ‘stimulants’ were thought to be taking a walk outside on a sunny day or watching a rainbow.

My first coffee was probably with my dad in my teens, as he drinks both also. He is very time of day specific with his coffee drinking and although I would just about drink a coffee anytime, at the moment I am being more specific. As someone who has one eye on my blood pressure most of the time and get on health kicks now and then, I have limited myself to one breakfast coffee and one mid-afternoon coffee. I could never kick the habit entirely.

If I was forced to give one up it would be tea every time. I wonder which of the two most people could live without? It’s strange that as hot beverages, they are competing with each other for the affection of the populous, yet they seem to coexist happily on the shelves of most.

The next time I’m in NZ, I will be going straight to a local cafe for a ‘long black’ (down under for Americano). My Irish spouse will no doubt be drinking tea.


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