“Coffee or tea?” Not so great a question as “What is the meaning of life?” but a bit of pith for our next coffee shop contemplation. After all, philosophy is the study of being, the issue of who we are and why we are, or in another sense, what we drink, providing a new twist on the old expression: “You are what you eat.” So what are you? (And why am I at the coffee shop daily?)
Maybe not a debate for the ages, but certainly a taxing question all the flight attendants will accost you with in your brief moment of sleep on the 15 hour flight, with a back-to-reality, ahem or an arm grab just to make sure you didn’t want something hot to drink amidst your mid-flight snooze.
But isn’t this a question we face everyday? Among its many other manifestations, this choice says something about who we are, as much about our personal philosophy as our preferences in taste. Coffee or tea: both have very distinctive moods that may apply to different aspects of life.
Harsh and somewhat bitter sweet, coffee has become the social drink of the age, spawning multinationals to deal with our mounting need and transforming modern social behaviors. Coffee is decidedly social. If you crave that human connection, then you’ll likely feel at home in the vibrant confused atmosphere that defines most coffee shops with the whirr of grinding beans, the scream of steaming milk and the cacophony of customers interacting.
Tea, at least for me, is for relaxing moments, for quiet retrospect. Tea is ageless and timeless. Everything from how you make it to what flavor to how you drink it, reflects on your personality. Tea takes patience, entailing a certain sense of timing and temperature, requiring much care to create a satisfying cup. Tea is more introspective, and thus maybe somewhat lonesome, which may be why even I wait until a quiet night to sip tea in my living room and listen to a jazz set or a classical quartet. Steeping in the self, the philosopher reborn in the gentle touch needed for each cup.
OK, yes, you can order a tea at a coffee shop, but how many people really do? The choice before you in that moment of flight or that inevitable coffeehouse decision, is a choice that goes far beyond what you want to drink… its a choice of lifestyle, of hard and fast or slow and easy, of dark and rich, or light and fruity, of thick or thin, of many things.
So what are you?
In the end, if you thirst, there is something to quench that thirst, but what is your particular poison (caffeinated or otherwise) and where does the need come from? Does it come from that innate need of fire mimicked in that burnt smell of coffee, or the softer tones of some herbal infusion?
Sure, we the year with a bang – launching into a series of somewhat humiliating and totally hilarious Coffee house pranks. And then eased into the time of Cherry blossom Tea, so maybe we change by mood, but which will you choose today, coffee or tea? Or do you even have to make a choice? I say when they ask, you say, “Neither, I want a Shasta!”