I love tea. Before I married my coffee-drinking Chinese-American husband, caffeinated tea was my morning drink of choice.
Andy never understood. “Coffee’s the best. Even the smell is amazing!”
“True,” I agreed. “It’s like an olfactory orgasm. But the taste is so bitter, you need, like, a half cup of cream to make it palatable.”
“Is that what happened to the cream I was saving for my pasta Primavera?!”
“You’re missing the point.”
“No, I’m missing some cream.”
“Anyway, coffee is fine for morning, but it’s too much in the afternoon. Pound coffee and you’ll never get to sleep. Whereas a nice Chai latte or Afternoon Ceylon will perk you up without giving you insomnia. And there’s no drinking coffee in the evening, either, while you can have a nice mint or chamomile tea to warm you up while you’re reading.”
Andy, “Bourbon or beer’ll warm you up better.”
“Detrimental to reading skills, dude.”
“Which is why I watch TV.”
I rolled my eyes. “Also, there’s something very soothing about the making of the tea, especially when you’re stressed out, or something bad happens. You have to pick just the right tea for the occasion, boil the water, measure out the tea, heat the pot, then let the tea steep, and there’s a warm pick-me-up while you bond. The Brits were onto something.”
“Tea is from China,” Andy huffed.
“Yes, and you guys turned some of it into the horror that is foo cha.” I shuddered. “Whereas the English added perfume and wound up with a nice hot cuppa that makes everything bearable.”
After we married, he got me an electric tea kettle, popularized by the British. It’s the quickest, most efficient way to heat water, and I loved it. I loved showing my tea kettle off, too, and feeling posh British-y with my Harrod’s Earl Grey #42 – loose-leaf, of course. (You do know that the stuff in tea bags are LITERALLY the sweepings off the floor of the tea packaging factory, right?) A friend even knitted me an adorable tea cozy to keep my teapot warm.
I had all the right gear. I was a tea snob. I was content.
And then my in-laws came to visit.
The night they arrived, I showed Jay and Sunny around the kitchen. “Here’s where I keep the tea, and here’s the kettle, all you have to do is push the button. It’s super fast! If you want loose-leaf tea, here’s the strainer. We keep cups in this cabinet. And here are the lemons – we actually grow them on our tree in the yard. Help yourself to anything, of course.”
Sunny and Jay nodded. They asked for some tea. I made them tea. They watched me make the tea.
I thought we were cool.
By morning, though, things were looking up. The in-laws were used to the dogs. Andy and Jay made improvements to the squeaking futon. While the futon might never again return to an upright position, it stopped squeaking. Sunny returned the mattress from the floor to the futon.
Andy, recovering from knee surgery, had a doctor’s appointment at 9 AM. I drove him, figuring it was okay to leave in-laws unsupervised for an hour.
At 10 AM we returned home to a smoky kitchen, the stench of burned plastic, and a scorched kitchen rug.
My electric tea kettle was melted into modern art.
My mother-in-law was furious: “What is wrong with your teakettle? I put it on burner for tea, turn my back, and poof! It’s all burnt up!”
“But, but – the kettle’s electric, Sunny! You can’t put it on a gas stove!” I wailed. “Remember? I showed you how to flip the switch last night! I told you how it was the best way to heat water!”
Sunny was unimpressed. “Shit, that’s a stupid idea. Who would use electric when you have gas?”
“But—but…it has a cord? That you plug in? How could you not know it’s electric?!”
Sunny only humphed at me as I bundled up the mangled mass of plastic in the charred rug. I left the kitchen, carrying the sad remains of my beloved kettle out to the trash.
Andy limped after me. “I’m sorry, honey.” He flipped back trashcan’s lid.
I sighed and tossed in my burned bits of Anglophilia. “I guess we should just be glad they didn’t set the house on fire.”
“Yeah,” Andy closed the lid and gave me a hug. “Can I do anything to help?”
“This is one of those times when a nice cup of tea would make everything better, ha, ha, ha,” I sniffled.
“I can do that! I’ll just heat some water in a sauce pan…after I clean all the melted plastic off the stove, which, um, might take a while, so I’ll just microwave—”
“Don’t worry about it,” I interrupted.
“I’ll just have a cup of coffee.”
Author’s note: After she got over being miffed – some six months later – Sunny did send me a replacement tea electric kettle.