Remember the last time you had a great cup of tea? You shouldn’t have to think. It should be your last cup. But why as parents are we subjected to such atrocious tea standards when it’s a time we need it the most (alongside chocolate Hob Nobs).
I love tea. I’m British of course I do. But then, I do love tea A LOT! I don’t drink it because I’m thirsty, I don’t find it at all refreshing in that way. My reasons are two-fold; pleasure and perfunctory. Up until I had a baby, tea was all about the pleasure for me and I love everything it signifies. I’m a busy person and rush around a lot and the act of drinking tea actually makes me stop, sit down and relax – if only for 10 minutes.
Tea drinking changed with the onset of parenthood. I’d given up tea during pregnancy which was hard but achievable as I’d felt sick for most of it. I’d naïvely wondered if this was the turning point for my tea drinking and that it was the natural opportunity to give it up. Then, after being up all night in labour, the midwife brought me a cup of tea and I gulped it down thankfully. From that moment, tea became far more perfunctory for me; I needed that caffeine fix. It was a careful balance of drinking enough tea to keep you awake after being up most of the night and not drinking too much so that if the baby napped, you could still sleep.
Ask almost any new mum and she’ll tell you how hard it is to actually drink a cup of tea when it’s hot and at it’s best. Most tea in the first six months is drunk lukewarm or microwaved after a mammoth feeding session or a rare moment when baby does sleep – but on the condition that she lay on top of you and you don’t move, trapped on the sofa unable to move a muscle and watching your cup of tea go to waste.
My baby was into everything and was glued to me constantly but as she grew more aware, making tea became part of our routine. We made a game of it and she started to think making tea was fun – to the point now that when I ask her if we can make mummy a cup of tea, she replies ‘ooh yes please!’. We sing a song, she opens the pot, chooses a tea bag, gives it a shake and puts it into the cup. She knows the drill now and tells me what to do next – ‘be careful mummy, it’s a bit hot! Put the milk in, give it a stir, oooh delicious’. I feel like an actual Einstein genius for achieving this.
Back at work, it became a novelty to have a fresh, hot cup of tea which I could drink sitting down. My old office thought I was a tea extremist as I’d be fairly specific about how I liked my tea – skimmed milk, colour of a Rich Tea biscuit. I don’t have time to mess around with bad tea when I’m baby free. I would try to be polite and say I wasn’t fussy but then you’d end up with tea that tasted awful. Then you’d have to be even more polite and be seen to drink it. Why not just ask for something you like? Surely if someone is going to the trouble to make you tea, they’d rather it be a good one? That way, it’s actually appreciated.
I’ve wondered why soft play tea is so awful. Plastic cups, weak and tasteless, it’s usually just a tonic to survive the bedlam of children and to give you the caffeine kick to chase up ladders, through tunnels and race down slides. Surely there’s never been such a concentration of tired, thirsty mums just desperate for a great cup of tea. Maybe our desperation lets them get away with it.
My fussiness in tea drinking has reduced since having a baby. I need all the caffeine I can get and drinking cold tea or sub-standard soft play tea has lowered my standards. I consider it a huge act of kindness for someone to make or even buy me a cup of tea – and equally wary about people who don’t drink tea at all.
And so I’d like to call upon soft play centres, park cafes and anywhere that sees a mum with a baby to up their tea game. Take pity on us and serve us tea which is hot, has actually seen a tea bag for more than two seconds and has REAL milk in it – not out of a sachet or from a jug covered in cling film that’s been left out all day. You’ll not only win our custom but our life-long respect.