What If Tea Was More Popular Than Coffee in America?

Today, I’d like to address the coffee drinkers. Hello from the other side!

Chai Tea Chick; coffee drinkers
Photo by chichacha / CC BY 2.0

As the majority in America, you guys have it good. There are 100 million daily coffee drinkers in our great nation, and coffee is like the life blood of our civilization. Every workplace has a pot of coffee; every street corner has either a Starbucks or specialty coffee shop.

For tea drinkers like myself, those luxuries don’t exist. Tea is growing in popularity, but it is still firmly number two behind coffee. I’m not sure you understand just how good you have it, so today I’d like to take you on a hypothetical journey that will show you what it’s like from the tea drinker’s perspective—what it’s like to live in a world where you favorite hot beverage is the less popular choice.

Imagine you wake up one Monday morning, groggily hitting the snooze button and barely able to get out of bed. The only thing that motivates you is the promise of a refreshing cup of coffee. When you get to the pantry, though, you notice all your coffee is gone, replaced by canisters of loose-leaf tea.

Tea is fine, but it’s not going to give you that extra boost of caffeine, and you don’t really know how to make it anyway. You quickly get ready for work and decide to make a pit stop at the nearby Starbucks.

Photo by Ivana Di CarloCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You get in line at the shop, already knowing what you’re going to order, but as you stand there, you start to realize something’s off. You sniff the air and notice the familiar smell of freshly brewed coffee is gone. Then, you start to listen to people’s drink orders, and they aren’t Venti Caramel Macchiatos or Tall White Chocolate Mochas. No, they’re ordering Gingseng Oolong Lan Gui Wren, Pu-erh Loose-Leaf, and Lapsang Souchong. These words sound like gibberish to you.

In doubt, you ask the barista for a Venti Americano.

“Oh,” he says, the judgment clear in his voice, “we only sell a regular coffee brew and iced coffee latte.”

You order the regular coffee, but as you gulp it down, you really wish you were drinking the espresso-flavored goodness of an Americano.

Later in the day, you go out to lunch with your coworkers at your favorite Cuban restaurant, which usually serves the best espresso in town. After the entrees, everyone is ordering tea with their desserts. You, of course, still desperately want an espresso, but you’re feeling unsure after this morning, so you decide to just order regular coffee. You know they must have that.

The coffee they give you is so bad, though, that you almost spit it out. It tastes burnt and stale, as if it had sat neglected in a corner for hours. You swirl the coffee around, and the scorched smell infiltrates your nose, almost as if the coffee is mocking you with its scent. Meanwhile, your tea-drinking friends each have individual pots of freshly brewed loose-leaf and are sipping their tea with delight.

“This isn’t fair,” you think as you scarf down the rest of your disgusting cup of coffee, “This is madness.”

So, coffee drinkers, how did that make you feel?

Yes, as nightmarish as this scenario seems, this is the reality for people who only drink tea in America. In our coffee culture, we face limited options, we often have to drink low-quality tea, and we are looked at suspiciously for wanting to have tea instead of coffee. Tea culture is small, practically nonexistent, in America, and tea drinkers just have to learn how to live in a world of coffee.

One day I hope coffee and tea will reach a balance, and that you will be able to order your Venti Americano and I, my Lapsang Oolong, and we will share lattes with love in our hearts.

Photo by protographer23 / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Until then, consider yourself lucky, and make sure you hug the next barista you see.


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