Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Coffee and Tea: Servants of the Muse?

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
I don’t get it when someone asks “Do you like tea or coffee?”
I like them both, and drink both, but it’s amazing how different they are, both in perception or actuality.
For example, I can’t face the idea of a morning without coffee, and that means coffee made my special way. Liking my coffee fresh and hot, I have a single serving coffeemaker that actually uses regular ground coffee (French Roast brewed to industrial strength is my favorite) instead of those abominable little cups. If the sad day ever dawns that there is no such thing as a single serving coffee maker that uses ground coffee, I will either go back to my trusty French press or abjure coffee forever. Those horrid little cups are too inflexible, too limited and far too expensive!
Usually I prime the coffeemaker with water and grounds the night before, so that in my semi-conscious morning state all I have to do is push the button and allow the elixir of life to pour into the cup. Once that’s done, I add one packet of sweetener and a goodly dollop of flavored creamer. At the moment I’m in love with Vanilla Caramel, though French Vanilla and Caramel Macchiato are not far behind. Once my 14 oz morning mug is about half empty I am reasonably awake and functioning. By the time I reach the bottom of that first mug , the animals have been fed, The Husband’s lunch made and him sent off to work. Once he leaves, I can go to my writing.
By the way, my coffee mug is an ancient one purchased years ago from my local RWA chapter. It is bright blue, and written on it in large white letters is “Warning – what you do may end up in my next novel.” Sometimes I think it as much as the coffee keep me focused on the project at hand.
Usually by lunch I have had two or three mugsfull and that is a sufficiency unless it is brutally cold outside, in which case I will drink it all day. (My office is the coldest room in the house in the winter, more’s the pity.) Then I will switch to water, or sometimes a Diet Dr. Pepper or iced tea. Both Dr. Pepper and iced tea are pretty standard afternoon/evening drinks in Texas!
I don’t drink as much hot tea as I do coffee, but I like it as much or more even though to me it doesn’t have the same caffeine-jet-propelled pick-me-up as coffee.
I would never drink tea out of my big morning coffee mug. That would seem vaguely uncivilized. My late paternal grandmother bequeathed me her cup and saucer collection when I was just a baby. She began it not long before her wedding in 1899 and by the time I received it the collection totalled nearly 50 cups. My mother used it for years, during my childhood and well into my grown-up-with-my-own-apartment life. She even added to it – and she should have, because being a total klutz she broke almost a third of the original collection.
When, long after my majority, I managed to coax it out of her hands, I melded it with the collection I had started for myself. Trust me, I have lots of teacups and saucers. They’re all pretty, but only a few of the old ones are really valuable. Still, I get one or another of the collection out and use them occasionally just for the pleasure of it.
My tastes in tea are much wider than in coffee. A bag or two of English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast or Jasmine or Assam or Golden Darjeeling (my favorite!) in the pot, a pretty cup, a little sweetener and just a bare splash of milk is a recipe for sheer delight. There are no flavored creamers here – nothing should mask the distinctive flavor of the tea.
If I am feeling particularly decadent around break time, I make up a pretty tray complete with shortbread fingers and jamprint cookies and if it’s warm take the whole thing out to the pergola or if it’s winter, into my early Victorian parlor. I tune the radio to the classical station and for a half hour or so simply enjoy life. It’s invigorating and restorative. Somehow a cup of tea taken while working at the computer simply does not taste the same!

These are silly little rituals, true, but they are part of my daily writing life – and is not writing itself a ritual? It is with me, something I do every day, rain or shine, well or ill. Silly, perhaps, but the coffee and the tea and the work all balance each other and – Heaven knows! – we writers need all the help we can get!


  1. They say coffee is good for brain function. So I drink a cup each morning. But I prefer tea and drink that in the afternoon. I even named one of my novels Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards.

  2. I love coffee. I always have. Even when I was a little girl, my favorite Baskin & Robbins (back when they were called Baskin and Robbins) ice cream flavor was Espresso. When they got rid of that, I switched to Jamocha. Good thing I work at Starbucks now!

  3. I love coffee and tea both. Earl Grey is my present favorite in tea, and I have to confess I use those one-serving cup things for my coffee. The Keurig I got for Christmas is my favorite piece of "furniture" in my office. I'm also a fan of flavored creamer--hazelnut being primary and Irish Cream (Creme?) a close second.

  4. I like coffee in the morning, and tea the rest of the day. How do people get by without a morning cup?

  5. Coffee pot is perking, cup of chai in my hands to hold me over until the coffee is made. You folks are definitely kindred spirits!

  6. I have become a coffee fanatic, perhaps because the foods I may eat are so restricted for various medical and allergy reasons. I love coffee and refuse to count how many cups I drink lest someone tell me I have to cut back. Don't EVER tell me to give up coffee - or else!

  7. I've always been a tea drinker. I never drink coffee, but love the smell of a freshly brewed cup. Go figure, my dad drank little cups of black Turkish coffee and my mom loved any coffee with Hazelnut.

  8. I drink the occasional cup of tea in the afternoon, but I'm mostly a coffee person. I don't function in the morning either until I've got a couple of cups in me. Can't write until the caffeine hits the brain.

  9. An enjoyable blog post! I need my coffee in the morning to get my day started too, but tea could never give me the same kick IMO.

  10. Yup...I said it before. Coffee's my writing beverage; tea is for reading. Coffee's the adrenaline rush; tea is the settle in and relax drink. Two very different beverages for two very different moods. Don't ask me to choose. I need them both!