My name’s Catharine and I have a confession to make. I’m a cliché. A walking cliché in fact. I’m British and I only drink tea.
When you live in Reunion what do you have to do to get a decent cuppa? Well, it turns out quite a lot actually. Something that you take for granted when you grow up in Britain can become quite difficult once you live abroad.
Now I don’t want to make a storm in a teacup, but having spent twenty of the past twenty-five years living in Reunion there are many things that I love about my adopted home, including some great food and drink, but making tea is not a strong point on the island.
There’s the time I ordered tea with milk in a Saint-Denis café and was served a frothy concoction in a teapot, with more milk than tea. In a fancy west coast hotel I once ordered plain tea and was brought lemon tea. I was given the explanation that plain tea wasn’t served other than at breakfast time because it wasn’t, and I quote, classy enough.
Another time in the south of the island after a Scottish-themed evening I requested my favourite drink at the end of the meal, only to be told “do you think this is breakfast here or what?”. And I’ve given up ordering thé gourmand in restaurants as I’m invariably served half a thimbleful of black, lukewarm flavoured tea.
New friends who invite me to their house must find me rather rude as when they offer me a cuppa they’re often subjected to questioning about whether they have a kettle, fresh milk, and most importantly, proper tea.
Recently when my elderly mother came to visit we got into the habit of going on our outings with a thermos and some teabags to ensure that she got a decent cup whenever and wherever. I’m pretty sure we got some funny looks as we sipped our refreshment by the side of the road in Plaine des Gregues or Salazie.
When I travel I take the opportunity to visit tea plantations in various far-flung corners of the globe, and enjoy bringing some tea back to savour on my return. However there can be problems elsewhere too, like the hot drink vending machines that use the same equipment to make tea and coffee, thus leaving you with a revolting beverage that doesn’t know which drink it is!
But for all the tea in China I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else than Reunion, and in recent years I’ve seen some improvement. We do say in Britain that “where there’s tea there’s hope” – so here’s to a brilliant future for tea-making in Reunion!
cuppa – ‘cup of’ tasse de
actually – en réalité
to take for granted – prendre pour acquis
abroad – à l’étranger
a storm in a teacup – tempête dans un verre d’eau
to order – commander
frothy – mousseux
teapot – théière
thimble – dé à coudre
lukewarm – tiède
rude – impoli
subjected to – assujetti
whether – si (oui ou non)
kettle – bouilloire
elderly – agé
outings – sorties
teabags – sachets de thé
to sip – siroter
improvement – amélioration
hope – espoir