In Australia (and England, and a few other countries steeped in the Imperialist love of hot tea), any bad situation can be helped, if not fixed, by a nice, hot ‘cuppa’. In fact, it is a common response when a friend bemoans their dilemma to say,”I’ll put the kettle on.” Things start to look up when there is a big mug of tea in your hand.
The term ‘cuppa’ comes from the lazy way we antipodeans say ‘cup of tea’. We say ‘cuppa tea’, and because we shorten as much of our language as possible, over the years it has become ‘cuppa’. I have known since childhood that hot tea is a cure-all, but it was only last year when I learned why tea is such a therapeutic beverage. I knew all about the antioxidants (I don’t live under a rock), but the ‘at ease’ feeling that tea elicits is due to an amino acid called L-Theanine. Tetley tea launched an advertising campaign in 2008 highlighting L-theanine, and on their site have this to say:
Tetley is a natural source of theanine
Since ancient times it has been said that drinking tea brings relaxation. Scientists are now studying the effects of theanine and it is believed that although theanine creates a feeling of relaxation, it doesn’t shut down the brain. So it allows you to be relaxed yet alert at the same time.
Relaxed, yet alert. And isn’t that how you want to feel when your life is in crisis? I should say that I am drinking tea as I write this, and even though I am not in crisis, I do feel relaxed and alert.
I got to thinking about tea a couple of days ago when Ben and I went to a favorite coffee shop close to home (yes, I appreciate the irony). As we walked to the coffee shop in the rain, we passed by two homeless men sitting under an awning, each bundled up against the cold and the wet. I barely glanced at them, but as we stood in line to order our ‘cuppa mud’ (as the sign in Caffe Ladro says), I couldn’t get the men out of my head. I was about to enjoy sitting in the warmth with my best friend drinking a hot cuppa, and they weren’t.
I ordered 2 extra coffees and a couple of giant cookies, and put together a little tray for each of them. I left the coffee shop, and walked quickly through the rain to where they were. “Here,” I said handing them the coffee, “this is for you.” The surprise and then gratitude on their faces broke my heart a little. I walked back to the coffee shop, brushing tears away. As I sat drinking my coffee, my thoughts kept returning to the homeless men.
When I moved here three months ago I was hyper aware of the indigent population, but it soon became ‘normal’ to walk past and not look directly at a homeless person. It bothers me when I do that, though. Every time.
When I go to the supermarket, there is almost always a homeless person standing outside selling Real Change, which is a newspaper dedicated to social change. It sells for $1, and not too long after moving here, I started avoiding the sellers and walking straight past them into the store. For the sake of $1. I’ve stopped doing that. When I go to the store now, I carry the $1 in my pocket, walk up and say ‘hello’, and look the person in the eye. It is a brief exchange, and they are always thankful, but it is mostly selfish on my my part.
You see, I am still job hunting, while I work part-time for my mother. Money is tight at the moment, and I dip into savings more than I would care to, but I am more fortunate than most. I have a beautiful home, I have a bright future and I have love in my life. I can also afford a cuppa at my local coffee shop, so I can certainly spare a dollar once in a while. Those small exchanges I have through the week with people far less fortunate than me remind me to keep my head out of my bottom, and stay positive.
And when the knock-backs sometimes get too much for me, I put the kettle on and sit down with a nice, hot cuppa. It helps, really it does.