There's plunder, and there's, well, I don't quite know what to call it now.
Naïve fool that I am, I had always assumed that the reason I was hauling back crates of Brand Y. Tea for myself and assorted other expats was one of those home-away-from-home things. Some adjustments are harder to make than others, especially bleary-eyed, early morning ones.
While good coffee is possible to achieve by dint of much banging of the supersonic coffee machine and the stealthy substitution of some Lavazza or other decent beans (kept under lock & key), the concept of a nice brew is light years away from the paper bags of fruit-flavoured wood shavings that usually appear under the the label here. Then there's the whole issue of preparation. The boiling of water first and the right sort of milk.
And I love tea. Proper tea I mean. Thick builder's tea that turns the milk a robust shade of mahogany. Tea you can stand spoon up in. Coffee just doesn't quite have the same effect in the mornings, it's too edgy, too acid. I need a big mug of tea that's almost a meal on its own to strip the flannel from my tastebuds. And then I need a few more to fuel me through the day. Somehow, I always thought that my fellow-drinkers out here needed their imports for the same sort of reason. It's what we're used to, and things don't feel quite the same without it.
Except I was wrong. It's not just that.
The other day, the undercover musician (80 bags, hard water blend) revealed that his particular brand is more than just a pick-me-up. It's a pick-them-up too. "Them" being his series of outstandingly attractive girlfriends. Nothing to do with the jazz cool, the sunglasses, the ability to riff for 2 hours solid and jam with gypsy punk trumpeters from the former Yugoslavia until his fingers bleed. Apparently it's all in the tea. Drop-dead gorgeous supermodel-types from the Czech Rep., Serbia and points east love it. Having never encountered a good cuppa (strong, milky and a good slug of sugar) they think it tastes amazing. And more importantly, because he drinks tea rather than beer, wine or slivovice for refreshment during the day, he's considered more stable and less likely to be plagued by an over-fondness for adult beverages, instantly moving him several points above his peers in the dating stakes.