Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the ritual of caffeine

Although she's been away from her home country for quite some time, there's an awful lot about my mother that's very British. Now, I don't want to extrapolate too much about the British from one example (other than my Nana, I don't know much of my family on that side...I haven't been over the pond in some time, and I actively loathe my closest living relative over there), but one of the very key parts of that Britishness is a certain love of makes them feel civilized.

Probably the most typical of British rituals is of tea. While it doesn't have quite the connotations of the Japanese tea ceremony, it does seem to hold a special place in my mother's heart. The prime evidence of this (if my mummy is any indication) is an incessant love of tea mom has dozens of them. Keeping the tea kettle at the proper temperature is very important, so my mom pre-heats the kettle and then uses something called a "tea cozy," a weird knitted tea pot insulator/cover/tuque designed to keep the pot warm in the brewing process. And then, you have to use the fine tea cups and saucers, in spite of the lack of practicality (my mom's favorite set has these handles that do not admit fingers) or expense.

Personally, I always thought the whole ceremonial aspect was sort of silly...particularly in the case of my mom, who, in spite of her tea pot obsession, uses mass-market tea bags. Isn't good quality tea the real point of all this? I suspect the actual ritual is more important to most, though. I get the same feeling when I hear record aficionados talking about vinyl care.

But my mocking of ritual is something events have forced me to reconsider.

A while back, I got tired of trying to clean my drip coffee maker and moved to a french press. Great coffee, but now I need to boil the water, preheat the press, grind the beans, pour the water over the grounds, preheat the thermos, and press out the coffee. It takes a while, but at least I can hum the Dexter theme. Then I got tired of having to drive to Ann Arbor to the one Chinese grocer who stocks the tea I like, I ordered loose leaf online. Now, when I want to do tea instead of coffee, I now have to boil the water, preheat my pot (okay, a glass measuring pitcher...I'm broke) and the mug, measure out the leaves, pour the water over the leaves, and strain the leaves out as I pour.

It's occurred to me that, in the pursuit of gourmet/snob coffee and tea quality, I'm falling into the ritual aspect myself. This gives me the fear. I can justify this to some extent with "well, I am getting better and tastier caffeine delivery devices." This, however, is of little comfort. I have to admit, there's a certain part of me that fears loving the procedure more than the result. I'm too young to become obsessive, damnit!

Well, more obsessive than I am already.

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