Standing-Up for Tea-Drinkers’ Rights

Part of my grandmother’s family came from East Frisia, otherwise known as Ostfriesland. In that part of Germany, the people are not coffee-drinkers, but tea-drinkers. As most Germans prefer coffee, East Frisia stands-out for its tea culture. In fact, the bulk of the tea consumed in Germany every year is drunk in that province.

As you may guess, tea occupied a part of our lives, especially when I visited with my grandparents. I don’t think my grandmother ever drank coffee in her entire life. I think she got Grampa into the habit, too, as I never saw him drink coffee, but I assume he did at some time after the family arrived in America during the 1930s. As I grew-up, I developed into a tea-drinker, much to Granma’s delight.

So, while I might have the rare cup of coffee, you will never find coffee in my home and you will always find a generous supply of tea, teacups and pots in my cupboard. We lived in the South for a few years and I developed a liking for Southern Sweet Tea, much to Granma’s horror, since it is served cold.

Once in awhile, I find myself eating out, especially with friends from work and I recently was asked to go to breakfast with a coworker. After the meal, I asked for some hot tea. I always like to wash-down breakfast with hot tea, but I usually eat breakfast at home, not in restaurants. The waitress brought me a Lipton teabag with a cup of hot water to dunk it in. Hiding my outrage at this blasphemy against the gods of tea, I drank my tea and asked for a refill of hot water for my second cup.

Things went downhill from there.

Since my friend wanted to talk after breakfast, I finished my second cup over conversation. The second cup was obviously weaker than the first, of course. I then asked for a new teabag and some more water. Then, the waitress dropped the bombshell: a second teabag would cost the same amount as the first one.

Never mind the cost, which was a little over a dollar, but I noticed how coffee-drinkers were able to get unlimited refills of coffee, but tea-drinkers have to pay for any tea beyond cup #2. Now, this offended me.

Why am I being punished for drinking tea, instead of coffee, I wondered? It’s not like coffee-drinkers can only drink coffee made with the exact same grounds as their first two cups were made with. Oh, no. Fresh grounds in the machine every few minutes, so their coffee is always fresh. Tea, on the other hand was weaker on the second go.

Okay, this is America, the Land of the All-Night Taco Stand, Land of Opportunity, and all that. Just no frakking opportunity for a tea-drinker for a decent cup of tea. Dear G-d, Lipton is like the bottom of the barrel for hot tea, compared to Twinnings, Tetley’s and PG Tips. Health experts in the media tell us to drink tea for better health and, yet, we’re limited to one frakking cup of halfway decent tea!

Okay. Okay. No problemo. I’ll just know better next time, I thought.

So, a couple of days later, my friend and I are back at the same restaurant for breakfast. This time, I brought my own teabags, which were of the brand Lyon’s, which is popular in Ireland. So, I asked the waitress for a cup of hot water, since I had my own teabags. You know what she said to me? She said that the manager doesn’t allow people to bring their own teabags, since it’s like bringing outside food into the restaurant!

What in the Holy Name of Frakk is this???

I’m serious!

Okay, outside food, I can understand. But, I cannot bring a tiny bags of dried leaves into a restaurant? I cannot drink as many cups of tea as I want because the manager is afraid of people starting with tea and going to bringing in steak platters from outside or something like that?

Hey, I tip well, okay? I’m not one of those cheap bastards that orders everything on the menu, treats the waitress like crap and doesn’t leave a g-d damned tip! I always tip, at least, 20% and so I thought that I could get a bit of leeway here.

But, nnnnnnooooo! Not for you, Mr Tea-drinker! It’s back to the rear of the bus for you and all your sorry kind!

So, being a Jew, I decided to stand-up for myself against the Forces of Intolerance and I asked to speak to the manager. After waiting for what seemed like forever – it almost seemed like the Messiah would come to our table before the manager did – this fat twenty-something kid comes out and I, politely, asked him if I could bring in my own teabags.  I figured that for something so small and insignificant, he wouldn’t care. I was wrong. Oh, G-d was I wrong.

He acted like I had just asked if  I could have sex with his wife or something. He actually seemed offended that I would even ask the question. His exact words were “Hell, no.” and that was it.

At this point, my friend was getting nervous and he thanked the manager for his time and we continued with our meal, my Lyon’s teabags staying-put in my coat pocket.

As we left, I told my friend that I didn’t want to eat there anymore. If I’m going to eat out from home, I’ll only eat somewhere that would allow me to bring my own teabags, as everyplace seemed to only stock Lipton’s, which is good for iced tea, but is horrid (in my opinion) when served hot. He resisted, at first, but he hated to eat alone and we actually got some of our work done before we had to go to the office at 9am, so he agreed to find somewhere else.

And we did. It seems that there is this little place, not far from the first one, where you can bring in teabags of your own choosing. The only catch is that you pay the same price for a cup of hot water as you would for a cup of coffee, which I can live with. I wasn’t the only tea-drinker there, either. A young lady brings her bags of green tea to drink with her meal. She’s recovering from breast cancer and drinks green tea as part of her regular diet. There’s also this Russian cabdriver who brings some obscure brand with him and drinks (I swear) about a gallon of tea in a sitting.

Nice to be with like-minded people. Besides, it’s also cheaper there and the waitresses are better-looking, which is always a plus.

After about two weeks of all this, I found myself at the local Big Box store and who should I run-into but the manager from the first restaurant! Apparently, he remembered me from our little encounter.

He mentioned that they hadn’t seen me since that day and when I might be coming back. I told him that I had found somewhere else, a place that welcomes tea-drinkers and I would be eating my breakfast there from now on.

Now, this took me of-guard: he couldn’t believe that I would stop eating somewhere simply over the Tea Issue.  I told him that I have been a tea-drinker my whole life and I wasn’t going to stop just for him. I didn’t add the fact that I had actually become attached to the new place, developing friendships with the other regulars (we eat the three times a week, at least) who were very friendly. The young woman, Eileen, is in remission and has a fanatical interest in stamp-collecting. The Russian, somehow, got me to become a semi-regular chess partner. What is it with Russians and chess? I think he likes beating me at chess out of revenge against all Germans because of World War Two, never mind that my family left Germany shortly before the war even started. No, this Rooskie has to punish us all. He’s probably a Trotskyite or one of those that believes in Permanent Revolution. Damned commies! Weren’t Lenin and Trotsky both Jews? Where’s the love?

There’s also the waitresses and the owner, who can usually be found on the floor working alongside her employees.

All this in a tea-friendly environment. What more could I want?

He had this look on his face like I had just told him there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny and he turned away without saying goodbye or even apologizing for his rudeness when I had tried a diplomatic solution before.

You don’t tell a Jew that he can’t have something. You just don’t! Especially when there are alternatives.

I think Granma would be so proud of me.



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