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Roisin Gorman’s Open Letter... on a simple cup of tea

I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who doesn’t drink tea, unless it’s so weak the milk looks like it has fainted’

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Mrs Doyle in Father Ted loved her tea, and so do many people throughout Ireland and the UK

Mrs Doyle in Father Ted loved her tea, and so do many people throughout Ireland and the UK

Mrs Doyle in Father Ted loved her tea, and so do many people throughout Ireland and the UK

Reports of the death of tea have been greatly exaggerated. Unilever’s recent offloading of its best-known tea brands has sparked predictions of the end of the cuppa. Apparently, a business worth €4.5 billion is not as attractive as it used to be now that the cappuccino stormtroopers are coming. But if there’s a kettle, a bag and a pot within reach — a girl’s got to have standards — the queen of hot drinks will never be dead. There are no circumstances which can’t be improved by tea, by which I mean your bog-standard builder’s brew. Lives are lubricated by its hot and frequent addition, which could be a euphemism for sex, except tea is more important. It’s the first thing on offer when someone crosses your door, unless it’s wine time. Coffee is a different kettle of caffeine and you’re allowed to abhor the bean, but tea is a social convention which starts soon after birth and continues until it fuels your wake. I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who doesn’t drink tea, unless it’s so weak the milk looks like it’s fainted, and then it’s just a waste of a teabag. Tea also counts as my only form of health training, like the Mrs Doyle of the medical world. In any emergency I’m there with the kettle on, sugar on standby and the paracetamol. After that you may need to seek actual medical advice. It’s a trait well learned from family experience. When my father had a run-in with some lawnmower blades my mother made him hot sweet tea. When my husband had a run-in with an electric saw I reached for the kettle. When his temporary dressings fell off, exposing the Texas Chainsaw Massacre where his fingertips used to be, I was tempted to reach for something else. Ireland and the UK are in the top five of the world’s tea drinkers, but we are mere amateurs behind Turkey, where the average consumption is over 3kg a year per person. Ireland is just over 2kg and the UK is just over one. I learned that the hard way after befriending some cafe staff during a long flight delay in Istanbul. After at least 10 cups of their beautifully-crafted tea I hallucinated for hours on the journey home. It was just a gateway drink to the harder stuff and suddenly I was craving mugs of spoon-melting mahogany-hued brews, once the stomach cramps and the talking unicorns wore off. I’ve tried to kick the habit with the pale imitation green tea, which tastes like someone has dropped rotting seaweed in a cup, and I don’t care how radiant I’ll look afterwards. Cold infusions and herbal concoctions are claimed to have robbed tea of its previously golden future, and I’ve been known to dabble in a nettle and fennel when the caffeine shakes start, or some pretentiousness is required. Kombucha, a fermented version of tea, has been claimed to cure everything from male pattern baldness to sarcasm and is now regarded as the Cristal meets Grey Goose of tea. But your ginger, turmeric, nettle, fennel, mint arrangements are not tea and shouldn’t be given the noble name. It’s like vegan alternatives. If it’s vegan, it’s not leather, sausages, bacon or burgers regardless of how healthy and plant-based it is. There are hopes that tea can fight back from oblivion, but experts predict its reign is over. I’ll put the kettle on and prove them wrong. Email roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com

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