E is for Earl Grey

My parents drink tea.  Nothing fancy, just the kind that comes in a box of a hundred.  Iced tea I’ve always loved, but the only time I had hot tea as a kid was when I was sick; tea and toast being all I could keep down.

I tried coffee when I got to college, but didn’t like it. Then one of my Physics professors began having weekly Physics Teas where the Physics Department got together and talked about whatever. He had a selection of teas, and I’m fairly certain the first one I tried was Earl Grey. Why? Well, I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I don’t know how many times I heard Picard say:

So I tried this drink of starship captains, and didn’t care for it.

Over the following weeks, I tried other types of tea, but I don’t remember liking any of them. I felt like I should give Earl Grey another chance, and the third or fourth time I tried it, the taste clicked. So for the last two years of college I had Earl Grey once a week.

After college I had trouble finding a good job and ended up working the midnight shift at a gas station. I had a lot of down time and filled it by reading and writing. At some point the image of a writer drinking tea became stuck in my mind. So about 2:30 or so, I would make myself a – generic – cup of tea and work on my writing.

In early 2002 – after I had moved and gotten another crappy job – I went into my first coffee shop and ordered an Earl Grey. I had become a tea drinking writer in a coffee shop. I went to this coffee shop two or three times a week and became known as the Earl Grey guy. It got to the point where I would walk in, put the story I was working on and my hat and coat on a table, and by the time I reached the counter my tea was ready. (This has been repeated at my current, primary coffee shop.) One of the girls that worked there chided me for only drinking Earl Grey and vowed that she wouldn’t serve it to me again until I had tried all of their other teas. I think I went through a dozen or so (liking only the English Breakfast) before she quit or was fired, and I went back to my Earl Grey. At some point around this time I discovered bookstore cafes and had also become a tea drinking writer in a bookstore.

Over the years, Earl Grey has gone from a Star Trek reference to being linked with writing. I can write without it, and I can have a cup while I’m doing paperwork at my current job, but there is something about the two together. It’s like a movie and popcorn or driving fast and good music played loud; they just fit.

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One Response to “E is for Earl Grey”

  1. Gretchen Says:

    I am a big fan of Earl Grey, too — and I had to laugh, because, yes, Picard is the reason I tried it, too! Yes, there is something that seems distinguished about drinking tea and writing, isn’t there? Part of my ritual of writing is to have a drink at hand; Chai works for me, too, but in summer it’s seltzer water. It’s hard for me to write (compose something new) in coffee shops — too much conversation and noise. As an occasional treat, though, I will sometimes walk to a neighborhood coffee shop to do some editing — or to immerse myself in the world of my good friend Steve’s newest piece 🙂

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