There’s tea & coffee, there’s joy & solace

There’s tea & coffee, there’s joy & solace

Happiness can go without, but grief is more endurable with a hot drink.

The best thing is that these drinks are affordable by all.

First, a couple of caveats. If you are expecting something about football, you are going to be disappointed.

Next, if you are thinking of alcoholic beverages, your spirits are definitely going to be lowered.

Yes, my focus is on tea and coffee. These two drinks rule the world between them. Their rule is benevolent, yet inexorable. Their effects extend the length, breadth and the fullest extent of this planet, the only known inhabited one in this universe. This means that, no matter where you go on God’s still-somewhat-green earth, you will find some version of these.

And I’ll bet you anything: if there are other planets inhabited by intelligent beings in existence, they will be found to have equivalents to these two brews.

In earlier times, no visit to a home in South India would be complete without the appearance of the dabara and tumbler with steam rising from it. It was the sign of hospitality, and came with visions of more to follow. Anytime a visitor showed up, a question would float up from the kitchen:“Will you have tea or coffee?” Those of us addicted to the stuff would rush to the kitchen just then to plead with mother: “Can I have some too? Just a sip... please!”

Then Mother would sigh and add some more milk, some water and the decoction of the brew in question, all the while muttering about the outrageous prices of milk, coffee and tea powder, and sugar. To many of us, one of the first signs of adulthood and independence was being able to buy a second or third cup with our own money, without being yelled at.

These two drinks are the most important offerings at any and every gathering imaginable.

Be it a conference or a meeting, a wedding or a naming ceremony, a birthday or a bride-viewing, no occasion is complete without these drinks. Why, they are welcome even at funerals! Happiness can go without, but grief is more endurable with a hot drink.

As for small gatherings and visits, these drinks are indispensable. A visit to someone’s home always involves the greeting first and the seating next. The guests get comfortable and commonplaces are exchanged until the tea and the coffee cups arrive, and then the real interaction begins.

Any ice lingering between the participants melts and animated conversations begin to flow. The warmth of the cups is the warmth of acceptance; the aroma is that of humanity and solidarity; the gentle kick, the piquancy of human interest. Without any and all of these, all interactions would be insipid and two-dimensional.

As for hot tea or coffee at work, don’t even get me started. The moment when the tea vendor hits the floor you’re on, your muscles begin to relax and the stress begins to unravel. When the modern-day Mohini or Mohan pours out the cups, smiles appear all around and conversation begins.

Sometimes, these serve as an excuse for people to meet. Do you think that courting couples go to coffee shops to enjoy the beverage? It is the same with friends and acquaintances… it’s easier to say ‘Hi’, ‘I’m sorry’, ‘I really appreciate you’ and a million other things over a cup of something hot and universally acceptable.

The best thing is that these drinks are affordable by all. While a cup in a swanky place can cost Rs 500, one in a palm-leaf pad costs just Rs 5. It may be a half-gallon in a stylised mug or just a few millilitres in a tiny steel cup, but it never fails to deliver a hit that both energises and soothes the body and the soul.

What happened in the world before these beverages, you ask? Well, there was war.

Okay, so I’m no historian, but think about it! If tea and coffee had been around, more kings and ministers would have sat around and had discussions, that’s what! And if Marie biscuits, Milk Bikis and particularly the salty-sweety Krackjack had been invented back then, Alex, Ghengis, and Julius might have had some fun meetings which didn’t end in the destruction of entire countries. And yes, we do have war even today. But these wars are so much more acceptable when you can have coffee or tea during breaks, aren’t they?

If you want names named, there are many, many famous people who’ve loved their cuppas.

Teddy Roosevelt’s coffee cup was more like a bath tub, Bach wrote a short opera on the coffee obsession, Beethoven and Ben Franklin adored the stuff, and Voltaire drank 40 to 60 cups a day. For God’s sake, even the Dalai loves his cup of tea; so there!

What are you waiting for? Go, make yourself a cup and then, wrapped in its warm and gentle embrace, prepare to enjoy the winter day!

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