Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tea and Coffee

Of all things that are spiritually opposite, tea and coffee are foremost in the class of edible things. Indeed, the world can be split into Tea-Drinkers and Coffee-Drinkers, much as Europe was split into Catholic and Protestant. Yet they are disturbingly similar.

Tea is a ritual drink, in direct contrast to Coffee. Look no further than the three countries best known for drinking tea to prove this. Japan makes a small worship-service of coffee. China, whence Tea originally came, does the same. England made a meal based upon tea. But did the Americans (the chief consumers of Coffee) make a ritual of it? No. To them it was a habit and a habit alone, like cigarettes. The extraterrestrial plotters of Starbucks had to come along and make it a ritual. (Contemptible cappuchino-swingers!).

Arrogance and Militance are the opposite vices vices of Tea and Coffee. Teacups are usually held by, one finger. This finger (usually the index finger) is pointed by the tyrant at his victims and subordinates, by the informer at the guilty man, by the scolder to the scoldee. It subtly reminds us of the Gesture Which We Do Not Make in Traffic. In short, Tea is held by a contemptuous finger, which smears but will not fight. Coffee is not so. It requires a warlike fist to hold its mug. Indeed, a coffee mug makes an excellent brass-knuckles (ceramic knuckles, that is.) The fist also holds the club with which peasants and cavemen, but also knights and kings, fought. Coffee is not ingorant of this; it demands a warlike salute from its drinker; not infrequently it punches him in the mouth. Or did until Star- but you understand me.

Yet Tea and Coffee are one. They are not sufficient in themselves, for no drink is an island. They require the same hot water, the same osmosis, the same filter paper. And even in the cup they are insufficient. They require sugar.