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No tea thanks

Firefighters' tea time

Firefighters' tea time

I’m facing my biggest test.

Two and a half months ago I gave up drinking tea. Proper tea that is. Irish tea. (Yes, yes, I know. Tea doesn’t come from Ireland. But we drink more per head than anyone else so we have a claim to it.) Or any kind of normal tea to which you add milk.

There I was, pint (of cider) in hand, at a party, and it came to me. I’ve been drinking tea for decades. Right. That’s it. I’m bored of it, and I’m having a break.

It’s a big thing. I love drinking it. I would sit with pots and pots of it. It’s the social lubricant – far more than alcohol. The universal panacea. The refuge to which you can turn when you don’t know where else to go. Always from a pot. None of this tea bag in a cup business. That puts a limit on it. Offering someone a cup made from a tea bag dipped in is like offering someone crisps from a bag, but keeping the opening closed narrow and tight in your fist to restrict access. It’s like offering hospitality with a time limit of, oh, say, five minutes.

But that’s all over. I’ve stopped drinking it. Not forever. That would be too daunting to contemplate. But for a long while.

And my fast – if you can call not drinking tea a fast – has brought benefits. I’ve lost weight. Eight or nine pounds. It wasn’t the aim, but appears to be the consequence. Perhaps it’s the milk I’m not drinking along with the tea, or the buckets of cake I’m not eating as accompaniment. Who knows? I may have to write a self help book extolling the virtues of cutting out tea from your diet as the route to weight loss and personal nirvana. (Any coffee companies fancy sponsoring it?)

But – and it’s a big but. (Single “t” there of course, thanks to all that tea I haven’t drunk.) I’m off to Ireland for the week. Belfast, Louth, Dublin, Drogheda. There’ll be tea and talk of tea everywhere. It’ll be pushed on me, offered, forcibly poured down my gullet through funnels. Refusal will prompt horrified gasps and concern about serious illness – physical and mental. Above all that, it’ll seem rude to refuse. (Especially in teetotal houses without alternatives – where a strong drink is when you leave the tea to brew on the hot ring.)

I don’t know what will happen. Here goes.

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