Excerpt: ‘Tea’, by Helen Addison-Smith


Photo by fran west. Image reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

This is what I grew up with: teabag tea as a punctuation mark, flat and ordinary. My mum made it this way. She used the same teabag for herself and for my dad. He got first dip, she got second. Teabag on a teaspoon, string wrapped around like a nice parcel, squeezing every last tanniny drop. They drank, and silence was probably the best option. You could look at the horizon, too.

Teabag tea tastes like licking bark. It tastes like a waiting room. It tastes like something to do with your hands. It’s a bare courtesy.

In Paris, the tea is loose and served as weak as patience. You can drink it in bourgeois teashops, where the cakes go past on trolleys, and the other customers have literal poodles on their laps, haute as hell.

I drank tea in Paris because of tourism, but mostly I didn’t have tea. Tea tasted like home and old people. I had coffee. Coffee tasted like the city and being young. The coffee and the city and being young made me anxious. I drank so many lattes in so many places that there’s nothing to say about it except. Here you go. Now you can get back to work. Faster and less accurate.

There’s nowhere to have a coffee around where I live now. You have to drive at least ten k’s, which puts a bit of pressure on the occasion.

So it’s tea. And tea makes a break. It’s almost smoking.

This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #29. Get your copy here.

Helen Addison-Smith makes icecream in the hills outside of Melbourne, not even as a hobby.