Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Strange brew

In my series "Observations by a Britt-ish Swede" I have now come to the subject of tea and coffee.
When Swedes ask someone around for coffee, it usually means coffee cups or mugs placed on the table, with buns, a cake or something similar. Then sugar, milk or cream are being placed on the table. Or you just go and help yourself to milk from the fridge... Note - it is not taken for granted that you use milk in tea or coffee. In many homes, you have to ask especially for it. "Oh, you want milk?" If you want lemon or maybe honey... forget it. That's just showing off!
Then the host goes around the table, serves the coffee and each guest prepares his / her own cup by helping themselves to sugar, milk or cream.
Now, in Britain... The host has to go around and ask each guest: "How do you take your coffee?" Then, 10 guests later, the same host's brain is struggling like mad. "Did you say white, one sugar?" "The one without sugar is the third from the left. No, hang on - from the right. I think."
After a lot of mental activity and confusion, everyone gets their cup or mug and have to make do with a beverage which probably doesn't quite live up to their expectations.

I have often wondered why it is like this and what I prefer myself. I must admit, I do like preparing my own brew, the way I like it. I assume my guests would prefer that, too.
Tea: Earl Grey, in my special tea mug - yeah that one! Let it stand for a long time so it gets really strong. Then, quite a lot of milk. Blue milk.
Coffee: Now here, I'm an all-rounder. I can take it black & strong or white - both with milk or cream. Preferably no sugar though. Latte, cappuccino, espresso... I'm game.

On the other hand, there's something caring about having someone making a tea or coffee for you. Someone has made the effort, taken their time to find out what you like and how to please your senses.

Hrmm. Tricky one, that. What do you prefer?


  1. Hi Britt,

    Some great observations here! I like my tea strong, preferably by giving the teabag a good thrashing in the mug, rather than letting it 'stew', although stewing is OK if the tea is made in a teapot. 'Ordinary' tea is usually best, with soya milk (or semi-skimmed cow's milk - skimmed is too watery to do the job, and full fat is just too creamy!).

    As you say, often the only way to get tea to your liking is to make it yourself. It is definitely a delight to be offered one just at the moment when it is really needed!

    Sometimes I drink herb/fruit tea - lemon and ginger is lovely, especially with some honey in it. A decent afternoon tea (tea and cake and/or scones) in a traditional English tearoom is one of my favourite ways to relax.

    When I make tea for other people, I often worry that I'm not doing it right, some people prefer the full teapot and tea cosy, but it seems a lot more straightforward to make it in the mug(s), and save the teapot for special occasions.

    What a rambling comment this has turned out to be! I have really enjoyed reading your blog tonight - brought here from your comment on Jon Snow's blog on Sunday. Would it be alright with you if I link to your blog from my own?

    Many thanks,
    ethics girl

  2. If I'm hosting - help yourself. If I'm a guest - yes, please serve me :)