Sunday, August 9, 2009

The drink of hearth and home

Here's a passage that knocked me out today, a quotation within the book The True History of Tea, which I'm still slurping my way through. It's not prose that whistles like a kettle, let me tell you, but it's pretty good history and provides great context. And every now and then a zinger comes along. I just thought this was the most eloquent explanation I'd heard of the contrast between coffee drinking and tea drinking. It's from a 1998 book, Coffee: The Epic of a Commodity, by a German newspaperman named Heinrich Eduard Jacob. He writes:

We must not forget that coffee made its appearance as an antidote, when individuals and the nation were given to gross excess in the consumption of alcoholic liquors. But in England it remained a foreigner. It had cultivated an excitability and an acuteness which were not, in the long run, accordant with the English character. "A man's house is his castle." Coffee ran counter to this family isolation of the Briton. It was not a family beverage; it made people talkative and disputatious, even though in a sublime fashion. It made them critical and analytical. It could work wonders, but it could not produce comfort. It did not promote sitting in a circle round the hearth, while the burning logs crackled and were gradually reduced to ashes.

Nice. See, that's not just a beverage in your cup. It's canon and culture!

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