Image Credit: Rex Features

A friend of mine returned from New Zealand and presented me with two heavy-duty china mugs crafted by an artisan potter in a studio on the North Island. The pair are finely pained in gentle blue strokes with ferns and birds that are native to that wonderful and beautiful country.

Coffee tastes better in a mug. Tea too.

I was reminded of those dainty bone china, almost porcelain cups and saucers that are part of the afternoon tea ritual in good hotels that still specialise in such things. Is it just me or does anyone else have an issue when it comes to trying to hold on to those little cups? I can never get a decent grip and that always seem ready to tip. And they never seem to sit right on the saucer either.

Every time you get a teapot — especially those single-serving little metal ones — no matter how careful you are, you always end up dripping and spilling tea


Afternoon tea, with cream cakes and sandwiches without the crusts is supposed to be a posh ritual. I think it’s purposely designed to make most people look clumsy and uncouth. How are you supposed to look fine and finished when you’re spilling your tea? It’s some sort of a bourgeois plot planned in parlours to demean us mere peasants.

Drip and spill

And how come we have the technological knowhow to put a man on the moon and scientists still can’t design a teapot that doesn’t spill. Think about it. Every time you get a teapot — especially those single-serving little metal ones — no matter how careful you are, you always end up dripping and spilling tea.

We have the ability to harness the atom and control the release of its power to light up a city, but we still can’t figure out how to make a teabag and hot water combine in a drip-free pour.

Does anyone use enamel mugs anymore? The shiny white ones that keeps tea hot and it always tastes better when there’s a few chips in the thing — better still if there’s a dent in the rim. Now that’s a cup that you can get a good manly grip of, hold it, savour every drop of the brew.

My father worked in the post office and worked a lot of night duties. We lived close enough to his workplace that he could come home during breaks. And he had a mug. A big one. A pint pot, capable of holding an entire family teapot of brew. And the longer the tea stewed before it was poured, the better.

Hung, drawn and quartered

Sugar? By the soup spoon — and stirred too with the vigour that could cause a tea tsunami should it ever break free of that giant manly mug. And no one else dared use it. That would be an act of ultimate family betrayal, treason of the highest order, one that result in being immediately hung, drawn and quartered and cast to the neighbours.

From what I remember, it became so stained from the tannins that it could no longer seemed to be ever clean. It was — and you knew it was because there were no dried drips streaking the outside — but I guess the tannin stains merely enhanced the favour of thing.

Several times, in my acts of teenage rebellion, I dared drink coffee from it. Even thinking back on it now, it was such an act of defiance — but it did make me feel as if I was like him, but my own man too.

Instant coffee, there was no other sort back when I was a nipper. None of this double mochachino with a soy froth latte sort of stuff. No. It was instant, black or white. And a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.

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