Very much just another blog

Dear Mr McCall Smith

with 6 comments

Part one.

Some weeks ago I was with the Suit in Hatchards on Piccadilly. I had just purchased some new reading glasses and this seemed like the appropriate way to celebrate. Like a pair of proper people we discussed best books, favourite Dickens novels (we had only read five between us), James Salter, John Irving and then, as is inevitable, sunk into our own paperback meanderings.

I was deep in thought with two books already wedged under my arm when the one in my hand was lightly removed. The Suit looked at me. The Suit looked at the book: The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith.

Don’t say anything, I said. I love these books. And, anyway, I’ve *read* the Unbearable Lightness of Being which means I can perfectly and legitimately read any book that is playful with its title. He wasn’t listening, he just looked at me, quizzically: do you read it or chew it?

Read it! I exclaimed. READ IT! These are joyful bite sized chunks of lovely – my defense wasn’t helping but I persevered: what’s wrong with reading *nice* stuff? I walked defiantly to the counter and the Suit followed, slowly, weighed down by all the Dickens we have never read.

Part two.

The Suit called:

Hello. I presume you have a copy of the Observer.

I do.

There’s an article by that man you love: McCall Smith. Something about being a tea addict.


Thought that would get your attention. Weren’t you going to blog about tea? You should read it.

I sought out the article. Mr McCall Smith, who has travelled the world and lived in many corners of it, is not, my friends, a tea addict. Not by any stretch of the most elastic of imaginations. A connoisseur he may be; widely read, socially and historically accurate, I’ve no doubt. But an addict he is not. A heroin guzzler knows about as much of the history of opium as an apple knows about Newton. Nothing. Nil. Niente. I’ll work on that analogy but you know what I mean. Not a whole fucking lot.

Mr McCall Smith, I am so very sad about this. An addiction cannot be treated lightly; an addiction is fifteen cups a day at least, and each roughly the size of my head. An addiction is seriously considering tearing a teabag apart and snorting the contents directly from the kitchen counter. Mr McCall Smith, an ADDICTION is something that I live with Every. Single. Day.

Let me examine your points: you talk (a lot) about not ruining tea with sugar. On this point we agree: sugary tea is rancid and, as a rule, strictly for weirdos and people who have recently endured some kind of shock. So, for example, when I was about six years old I thought I knew my parents’ kitchen so well that I could negotiate my way from one end of it to the other with my eyes shut. I was right. Indeed, the whole thing would have been a roaring success had I thought to leave the door open. See: a shock. My father made me drink sugary tea (horrible) while my mother applied ample amounts of Arnica to the egg shape lump growing from my forehead. I leant a valuable lesson that day: if you ever get a shock, do not let on. I try always to produce an air of nonchalance that, unfortunately, looks a bit like I’m chewing on a bee – but, you know, no one makes me drink that shit.

I digress, Mr McCall Smith, let us return to the matter in hand: addiction to tea. You suggest in your article that the proper vessel for tea is a fine china cup. You may well be right but this, and I’m sorry to bang on about it, IS NOT AN ADDICT TALKING. I would drink tea out of a beaker if necessary. In fact,  I’d *happily* drink it from a bucket; the size would appeal to me. And, while I prefer a breakfast blend of Assam and Ceylon (Twinings preferred), I’m by no means tied to it: I would not turn my nose up at Sainsbury’s Red Label. Yorkshire Tea, now there I draw the line, I’d hazard a guess that tea has never been and will never be grown in Yorkshire, but above any thing else, it sucks arse, as does Tetley. There endeth my snobbery.

As for loose tea, well have it your way sir, but surely a tea bag is no less than a sensible transporting device. And, well, I can’t imagine a coke fiend returning a bag because they didn’t like the colour.

On America we agree. Yes, we do. They are a nation of tea twats and should be chastised accordingly: you have to use *boiling* water to make tea, and you have to put the bag in not leave it on the side. It can’t infuse by osmosis, a certain amount of connectivity is necessary – and by that I mean: put it in the fucking water. Oh, and tea is not served with hot milk. Not even nearly. Stop it.

There ends my rant but, Mr McCall Smith, I don’t want to leave on bad terms. Despite my rattling, I greatly admire your sophisticated approach to tea and I will continue to enjoy your books. It would love, if you’re ever on my side of town, to take tea with you. I’ll get out the china (I don’t have any china).


Written by elikafm

February 2, 2010 at 7:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Sad to report that I too have a tea addiction of sorts, although I religiously start each day with a very large Illy espresso.

    Or two. Don’t you just love the tin?

    Twinings is my addiction, probably as a result of designing many different ways to offer steaming hot samples to hundreds of thousands of consumers over almost a decade, a few years ago.

    Now I’m satisfied drinking Earl Grey during the day, Lotus Green tea at green tea time (around half past five in our household) and Peppermint tea after dinner to help the digestion. All Twinings, of course.

    One of my pleasures is corrupting tradesmen by getting them hooked on Twinings rather than bog-water builders tea… you can almost imagine them being embarrassed about it with other tradesmen friends, pretending that they prefer triangular teabags with floor sweepings in, whilst secretly wishing they had a decent cup of tea in their hand!

    David J Foster

    February 2, 2010 at 10:25 am

    • I couldn’t agree more. Twining is, without exception, the very best of teas: English Breakfast above all. We should drink tea, my friend, and continue to educate!


      February 2, 2010 at 11:19 am

  2. As I wrote in the thing I couldn’t be arsed to find or you, tea is the drug of choice in every agency creative department.
    Mainly because it is a pleasant displacement activity that doesn’t give you cancer.
    Personally, I drink Waitrose Earl Grey at home (I find Twinings too bergamot-y) and I have milk in it. (You can fuck of if you turned your nose up at that.) At work I’ll happily drink sawdust in a bag all day. As long as I have the biggest nug in the cupboard.
    Ambivalent on the sugar front tbh.
    But poncy teas are out unless you’re ill or gay or both.


    February 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

  3. Tea is not tea in a plastic cup, but is better than no tea at all. Unless camping, then tea must be in a plastic cup.


    February 2, 2010 at 11:51 am

  4. Milk in Earl Grey is my preference too, which is a good thing as I don’t have one of those pert turned-up noses.

    Apologies, but the image in my mind is of you drinking sawdust whilst in a bag… that really is some creative environment! Do you run Ideo?

    David J Foster

    February 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AdLand Suit, Manisha Ferdinand, Elika, Giles Palmer, Jeni Rodger and others. Jeni Rodger said: Superb fellow tea-addict! RT @adlandsuit: AM-S rubbish at books, rubbish at tea. RT @Elika Blogged Dear Mr McCall Smith http://bit.ly/9YpWk9 […]

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