For centuries coffee and tea have delighted social circles all over the world. According to Wikipedia, Coffee was first consumed in the 9th century, when it was discovered in the highlands of Ethiopia. From there, it spread to Egypt and Yemen, and by the 15th century had reached Armenia, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa. Then it spread to Italy, and to the rest of Europe and the Americas.
Tea on the other hand was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. It is said that the emperor liked his drinking water boiled before he drank it so it would be clean, so that is what his servants did. One day, on a trip to a distant region, he and his army stopped to rest. A servant began boiling water for him to drink, and a dead leaf from the wild tea bush fell into the water. It turned a brownish color, but it was unnoticed and presented to the emperor anyway. The emperor drank it and found it very refreshing, and cha (tea) was born.
As you know, there are many variations of these two beverages all around the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to do some traveling and one thing I’ve found interesting is that in all my encounters with different cultures both coffee and tea are a big part of every meal. Be it for social or health reasons, people love their chi and java. Now, if you were to ask me which one I like best? I would have to think hard. I like them both! On the island where I grew up coffee is definitely the preferred hot beverage. So it is natural that I would have developed a fascination with this beverage at an early age. I love the color, the smell, the taste, and the fact that I can add all kinds of different spices and flavors to my cup of java, which of course makes it all the more interesting and so much more delicious to the taste buds.
For a long time I thought “Bustelo” (a cuban coffee brand name) was the best coffee in the world that is until I had Jamaican “Blue Mountain” straight from the Jamaican island. Talk about good coffee! Soon I was introduced to Italian and French espresso (Can I just say heavenly?!), then there was Thai coffee, and the list goes on…At the present I am all about “Jacobs” from Germany. I’m not sure exactly what it is about this coffee, but I am hooked on it. It’s rich, but not imposing with just the right darkness and strength that a good cup of coffee should have. I have my wonderful German exchange student, Charlotte to thank for introducing me to Jacobs Coffee!
I enjoy coffee so much that many years back I began experimenting with different spices and flavors until I came up with my own recipe for the perfect cup of coffee. My friends liked it so much they named it “Beboffee”! I kept the recipe secret from everyone for a long time then I got to thinking that some things should be passed along so that others can enjoy it as well.
I was first introduced to hot tea by my mother who used to make it only when someone in the house was sick. Sometimes it would be “manzanilla” (Chamomile) Which I was not too crazy about and other times she would make this amazing fish tea that was the best homemade remedy for allergies, cold and sinus problems. I never understood why it was named fish tea- is really more like a broth, but hey I’m not the expert. Many years later, I was introduced to one of my ultimate favorite teas by my good Trinidadian friend, Debbie. She makes the best ginger tea I’ve ever tasted. This is a tea with raw/fresh ginger and milk. I seem to recall my mother making this tea for my sisters and me whenever we had a cold or a stomach ache as well. It is so much better than medicine! It’s spicy and soothing at the same time. Even now, when I feel a cold coming on, I make myself this tea, only difference is I like to use brown sugar, honey and a pinch of cinnamon and/or nutmeg. My Trinidadian friend likes to add a clove of garlic (must be a Caribbean thing!). I’m pretty sure there are hundreds of different versions of this tea all over the world.
Another interesting tea I’ve tasted comes from Argentina. When I was in college, my Argentinean friend, Shirley invited me to spend a summer with her family. After their meals they would drink this tea called “Yerba Mate” which was a strong herbal tea typical of Argentina. I remember looking forward to tea time, just because I enjoyed watching their interaction with each other. They would place the herbs in some sort of a small container with a long pipe then they would pour the hot water and then each would take turns sipping through the pipe-like metal straw. They would read the newspaper, magazines, or do some knitting and talk about everything under the sun while passing the tea around. I could tell that for them, that was a great family bonding time. Tea time at the Praniuks always made me homesick for my family. Some of my most memorable experiences with other cultures include a rich cup of coffee or a soothing cup of tea.
So there you have it, coffee and tea, two of the world’s most popular beverages that are still making their rounds around the world. Which one do you prefer? I don’t know about you but for me it is a 50/50. I have so many international friends; it would be hard for me to like just one thing. Through many years of great relationships, I’ve learned to develop a global view of things and as a result, a global taste as well. There are days when I just crave “café con Leche “ (Spanish for coffee with milk) like only my mother can make, but there are days like today when I’m alone in the house looking out my kitchen widow, writing an article and sipping on some Roobos red tea…ah delightful!
It’s amazing how just having the right warm beverage makes any ordinary day, a perfect day, or how sometimes sharing it with someone else could bring peace to a stressful situation, comfort to a hurting heart, and intimacy to a growing relationship. I once heard of a missionary who began his ministry by serving tea and cookies to a group of villagers who wanted to kill him. After several tea visits, these young men, not only embrace the missionary’s faith but became some of the best advocates of peace in the region. Who knew that a simple beverage could save a life?