Sunday 5 June 2011

Storytelling Sunday: Variation on a theme of a cup of tea.

Some stories are silly. This one certainly is. And yet, at the same time, it says a lot about me and my friend Liz. Liz is a writer. When she left uni she started a magazine called Oh Comely and she writes. Actually she does an awful lot of other things too, but the story I want to share today, as part of Sian's Storytelling Sunday is a story of me, and her, and our friendship. But it's not a story by me. It's a story by her. It's about tea, sort of. And it goes like this...

"One morning, I sat in my room, blindfolded, and tasted one cup of tea after another. Six cups in all. It's not helpful to remember how lovely that room was, but it's hard not to: wide windows, views of trees and a stream, high ceilings. It was my third year of university; important things were afoot. But here I was, sipping tea in my overly-nice room and deciding whether I thought the tea bag had been squeezed or not. It was the last act in my longest-ever argument.

Tea-drinking is like any other drinking in that you seek out a companion with boundless enthusiasm. Kirsty never refused a cuppa. Our drinking at times became distinctly unhealthy. We would drink so much that we'd be vaguely juddery from the caffeine and lie around feeling bloated. Every now and then we'd comment on the noise the tea was making sloshing around in our stomachs, and then get up and put the kettle on. We went to the bathroom constantly. It was mildly obscene.

So in many ways, it was perfect. We drank tea every time we saw each other. We drank it alongside trays of pasta bake and cheery TV dramas. We drank tea to dilute the pain of our studies, which were not as much fun as we'd hoped. But something bothered me: Kirsty squeezed the tea bags. What was worse was that she flatly refused to admit that it made a difference to the taste. Our feud followed us quietly through the terms. It survived almost three years of listless studying and six seasons of Gilmore Girls.

Until that moment. There were three pairs of tea to taste. One cup of each had been left to brew, with the other Kirsty had carefully mashed the tea bag just as she always did. I got it right, of course. She didn't believe me, of course. She declared that the result not statistically significant. I was not the mathematician, so there was nothing I could say. But I knew I was right: I hadn't got it right by chance, I got it right because I knew which was which. The squeezed tea bag tasted acrid and a little bit dreggy, just as I knew it would.

There are plenty of other things to get angry about with tea, of course: too much milk, an underbrewed cup, tea bags left floating in the bottom like jellyfish full of tannin. But with tea bag-mashing, it's not just the bad taste. There's also something so unnecessary about it. It's always deliberate. There is no half-mashed middle: people either look insulted or utterly bewildered when you ask them not to mash your tea bag.

Some people say that a cup of tea is a tiny gesture of kindness in a hard world. It is true that I find it slightly sweet when someone makes a me cuppa. It makes the world seem softer and gives you something warm to wrap your hands around. That's always nice, especially when it's cold. On days when everything threatens to descend into chaos, a cup of tea makes me feel a little more loved. But only if someone didn't squeeze the tea bag."

The pedant in me is obliged to reiterate that this test is not statistically significant which is a maths way of saying the chances of her guessing right by accident were too big, one in eight, and no self-respecting mathematician is going to accept a significance level of 12.5%. Duh! Plus, once you've made the tea, in the cup with the teabag floating in it, it's common sense to whip out the teabag and squeeze that excellent tea-loveliness back into the cup. And it makes NO DIFFERENCE to the flavour.

I love that this story has 2 totally different perspectives and that I can scrap these, hers and mine, as a little part of my life history. If you know someone with a talent for the written word, get them to write you a story and find out what they really think!

Kisses xxx

P.S. Have loads to share as spent the day yesterday at GoGo To You, a ScrapaGoGo day event and crop where I met some lovely ladies who came to crop with us for the day, took some fab classes and I got to teach my very first class! Pages forthcoming.

P.P.S. How FANTASTIC was Doctor Who?


  1. I love this story....and I'm afraid I have to agree with Liz....squeezing the tea bag DEFINATELY affects the taste.

  2. I'm of the opinion that the difference if difference there be is what makes the tea taste right. I SQUEEZE MY TEABAGS. lol

  3. dr who was fantastic even though i had guessed way before who river song was so it was just like ''yes i knew that already''. gr8 acting though. and the tea thing i completely get. it's like u have to warm the teapot or else it doesnt work properly and the milk goes in after the teabag or else it doesnt work. my we are so sad. and i am Sooooooo excited that u know the lady who set up ''oh comely'' it is gr8,
    jo xxxx

  4. Beautifully written story - a guest writer. I'm sure you will make it into a lovely quirky page too - perhaps tea stained? :P

  5. I'm not much of a tea drinker but I am quite picky about my coffee, so I can understand that a committed tea drinker would be able to tell the difference if the bag was squeezed or not. Great story, and you are so right about how a hot cup (of your preference) makes the world that much righter!

  6. i'm a squeezer. how can you not squeeze!! lol!
    My grandad was a beleiver that tea had to be brewed and for four minutes less and no more...he would set a timer! great story Kirsty x

  7. Oh, brilliant! I love this story (and that's coming from a coffee drinker lol)- and I love Oh Comely!! Please let your friend know from me, won't you?? I have said it on another couple of my comments today, but I'd like to say it again - what I love about the story is what it helps you to learn about the narrator. Great stuff.

    Thanks for joining in again this month Miss Smith. Full marks all round.

  8. I am looking forward to seeing the page that follows this story Kirsty :)

    It was so nice to meet you yesterday and take one of your classes, I have the bug now and want to go on a retreat! :)

  9. Oooh, fabby story! I do agree that squeezing the tea-bag can affect the flavour - you get the mushy, acid bits back in your cup. Having said that, I prefer my tea weak and black, so a squeezed tea-bag for me, means seriously over-brewed tea (which I hate). I don't like the acid-tannin taste of strong tea - I like the lightness of tea that has had the (freshly) boiled water poured onto the tea-leaves (tea bag if you must) and has been allowed to steep, undisturbed, for two or three minutes at most, then has been removed, carefully and not squeezed at all. So yes, I can really taste if the tea-bag was squeezed!
    And I never did hold much store by statistics, especially since our office statistician pointed out that it's possible to make statistics prove whatever you want really, by just asking the question in the right way... hummmm
    Fresh-brewed, light and un-squeezed tea for me please!

  10. Great story, I sat smiling throughout, I'm a tea drinker, in fact I often moan that as a family we drink far too much. This'll make a great LO, can't wait to see it, plus those ScrapaGogo pages sound great, can't wait to see those too.
    Hannah :)
    P.S. When I create my She Art girls, I simply cut out the component shapes and layer them up, although the head can be quite tricky and has taken a fair few attempts sometimes. I have a rough plan in my head, but it changes as I go along, depending on how creative I feel and if it's gone well so far :)

  11. Lovely story - I always mash the tea bag!

  12. Another tea bag masher here! Great story - it made me laugh thinking of all that tea drinking whilst studying!

  13. I never realised tea making was such an art! I only started drinking it a few years ago, and I mash the bag! I'm too impatient to wait for it to steep!

    I've never heard of the 'oh comely' magazine before, I'm going to look out for it! x

  14. Lovely story and I agree having both sides makes it special.

    I mash but then I don't drink it either... Wookie trained me and grew up working on the Railway so has very strong tea.

    We have a friend who drinks coffee if he discovers the host/ess mashes the bag. I try hard to remember for him - but he usually ends up finishing his cup off at mine.

  15. That was really interesting about the tea. I'll have to have a couple of cups this morning to check it out. I often wonder what my GF (a chef) would think of making your tea right in a mug instead of a teapot. :)

  16. What a fab idea for your friend to write the story. I have to admit though I can tell the difference and I hate squeezed tea-bags! But then I hate strong tea!

  17. I hate strong tea, so teabag squeezing doesn't work for me...great reading!
    Alison xx

  18. I'm with you. It drives me crazy when people squeeze that extra tannin into the tea! Yuck!

  19. OOh who would think the humble cup of tea could make for such a wonderful story? and so many interesting and funny comments. Mashed tea bags, yuck! My thing is I have to have the right tea and mine is different from the rest of the family which causes much amusement in our house.
    I love your photo.

  20. Love the story! Love that you scrapbook the quirks; they're the things that give life its meaning.

  21. Oh, thanks, Liz! I very much enjoyed this story :) And I look forward to your forthcoming layout of it, Kirsty! xx

    PS YAY Doctor Who!!