The Relative Value of a Bag of Tea

Gerry is upstairs watching a very early morning soccer game and I’m downstairs in the kitchen making a cup of tea.

I’m downstairs making a cup of tea … Exactly. The. Way. I. Like. It. Not weak—but not too strong either. It should look dark and hearty, and the minute it does, I zip that tea bag outta there. This gives me a smile because I remember the surprise of a recent houseguest—a dear friend of ours—when I didn’t save the bag to use a second time.

Oh, I used to do that, when I was a much younger woman. My mother, a child of the Depression, did it, and I am her daughter. I think the Depression is the operative concept there—we were definitely a waste-not-want-not household, and that extended to tea bags. We set it aside in a saucer and used it on the next cup.

I don’t know if they’re actually intended to be used a second time, but that cup of tea never tasted as good, and I gave it up years ago.

There’s a deeper history at play too. When I toured a Georgian house museum in Dublin a decade ago, I learned that the housekeeper (not the homeowner, not the lady of the house) carried a ring of keys fastened to her belt. The silver was locked up, foodstuffs were locked up, anything of value was locked up. The lady of the house, though, carried just one key—the key to the box that had the tea leaves in it! Tea in those days was more valuable than silver. It had to come such a long way.

Anyway, all this progression of thought—from my perfect cup of tea, to my friend’s thriftiness (inherited no doubt from her Depression-era parents), to the relative value of a tea bag in the twenty-first century—gave me a smile this morning. I hope you have a cup by the keyboard as you read this.

Mug by Nicholas Mosse, clematis pattern.

Mug by Nicholas Mosse, clematis pattern.

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