To Tea or Not To Tea

Written by Mark Kearney

We all enjoy coffee breaks, but can we please change the name to “coffee AND TEA break?”

I know that’s hard to roll around on the tongue, but tea drinkers like me have been treated as second-class citizens for too long. It’s time we brandished our tea bags proudly and asked for equal treatment.

How many times do you go to a confer­ence or lecture, and there’s a break but only coffee is served? You ask for tea, and the usual reply is, “Oh, sorry, we don’t have any. But there’s juice.” Since when did orange juice soothe the spirit like a nice steaming cup of Earl Grey?

Go to your basic restaurant or banquet hall and inevitably you’re asked if you want coffee. Ask for tea and all too often they bring you one of those little aluminum pots with lukewarm water, a bag on the side, and a little plastic container of cream.

“Where’s the milk?” you want to shout. And just try pouring the water out of one of those contraptions without creating an instant pond on the tabletop.

Don’t even get me started about trying to get tea in the U.S. First, you have to ask for “hot tea” even when it’s minus 10º. Then they almost never serve it with the tea bag steeping in the pot.

And when you ask for milk with it instead of lemon, they look at you with an expression that says , “Where y’all from?”

Airlines, to their credit, always offer you the choice of tea or coffee, but too often we tea drinkers get the smiling face and “I’ll be right back with that” from the flight attendants working their way down the aisle. By the time they’ve returned, I’m either in the bathroom lineup or the in-flight movie has started.

Coffee drinkers invariably do a double take when I say I don’t drink coffee at all. “You mean never?” they sputter. “Not even at breakfast?” And then they usually regale me with how they can’t start the day without their coffee, which Tim Horton’s they go to, the great cappuccino maker they got one Christmas, blah, blah, blah.

Now I realize more people in Canada drink coffee than tea by a large margin. But tea used to be the most popular beverage in Canada into the 1950s, and it has enjoyed a resurgence in the past decade or so as coffee prices have skyrocketed and people have become more health conscious.

Even the way we drink the two differs. You grab a cup of coffee; I sip my tea. Coffee is the fast-paced, go-go-go, rolled-up shirtsleeves world. Tea mollifies. It’s the drink that makes everyone feel better in all those old British movies. Family crisis? On the dole? Being bombed by the Nazis? Have “a lovely cuppa,” and everything will be fine.

Just think what might happen in Canada if coffeephiles gave us tea drinkers our due. Feeling bad about the economy? Crime on the streets got you down? Bad hair day?  Here, have “a cuppa.”

Ahhh, now doesn’t that feel better?


Mark Kearney is an award-winning journalist who has co-authored 10 books. When he’s not writing or drinking tea, Mark is a lecturer in the undergraduate writing and graduate journalism programs at Western University. 

About the author

Mark Kearney

Mark Kearney has been a journalist for more than 35 years and has been published in nearly 80 publications in North America. He teaches writing and journalism at Western University.