>In England, where people are good and noble, clean and impressive, tea is the drink of choice. Tea is balanced, healthy and of a heritage that is the envy of the whole world. It’s as ancient as civilization and the benchmark for its continuance.

The development of tea drinking has accelerated over the last 30 years. Where before people were happy with a cup of tea, a splash of milk, maybe a spoonful of sugar and a few minutes of peace and quiet to drink the thing, there is now a dizzying amount of alternatives to confuse the decent among us. Of course tea varieties have been in existence for centuries, but people in general didn’t drink them, and people who did were assholes.

Darjeeling, Lapsing, Earl Grey etc etc. These are effectively pure leaves from individual plants that are developed for particular tastes. However, the teabags we buy in general – Tetley, Ty-Phoo etc – are blends that have been created to appeal to the widest possible group of people, and that’s why most people buy them. People like the average and they have no problem with it.
Not so with Coffee though.
Coffee is a foul product and the beverage equivalent of a functioning maniac. It has no redeeming features to align it with polite society. It smells, gives you bad breath, and makes your eyes twitch. But, it’s everywhere. Everywhere.
It’s almost difficult not to buy a cup of coffee as you walk down any street in Britain, but find me a cup of tea and I’ll accuse you of going to McDonald’s. It’s bizarre. It all goes back to the 1300s when coffee was first brought to England and coffee shops were established in London, then Oxford, Cambridge etc. Ironically, tea shops are all the rage in France right now.
Anyhow, coffee. The appeal seems to be threefold.
1. Convenience.
It’s easy to make a cup of coffee. Anyone can do it, and you can do it for anyone, unlike the minefield that is making tea for someone you don’t know. With coffee it’s just coffee in, water in, milk in then ‘do you have sugar?’. Actually, just put the sugar in. Also, as mentioned previously, you can get a coffee anywhere so, even if you don’t want one, you’ll probably buy one. People love to be seen to have done so too. Tools.
2. Exoticism.
Strangely coffee is still a little exotic. Americans drink it, don’t they? And those French, Spanish and Italians. But it’s also because it comes from so far away still and from places we, as an Empire, never owned. Tea comes from India, and we all know India, but coffee comes from Guatemala, Chile, Indonesia etc. Exciting! As long as you avoid thinking about the cocaine cartels.
3. Choice.
Yes, you can have anything you want when it comes to coffee, and people do. Ask for a cup of coffee in the next Costa or Starbucks and check out the weird look you’ll get. Frappucinos, Cappucinos, Lattes, Mochas, Soya, Vanilla, Sprinkles, Foam, Cream, Stop! Stop!.
Honestly though, there is only one reason that we drink coffee. It is not the choice, variety, convenience or excitement. It’s not even the style effect, and it is not the taste, so stop thinking that. No, it’s the caffeine. Coffee wakes us up and/or keeps us awake and that’s what it’s for.
So, really, it’s a polite and socially acceptable form of amphetamine. I don’t know about you, but I feel less comfortable with the idea of people dragging lines or popping pills in the street rather than sipping their Macchiato on the way to work. Just eat a mint afterwards, ok? Please?