things i love

My Hot Drink Cupboard

28 Comments 10 December 2010

tea cupboard

The American Resident's Cupboard of Hot Drinks

Growing up in the States the only hot drinks I liked were warmed apple cider and hot chocolate. I wasn’t even a coffee drinker in a nation of Starbucks. Ok, Starbucks didn’t exist when I lived there. I loved coffee flavoured candy though.

Anyway, when I came to Britain where hot drinks are so common they’ve invented a quick source for boiling water (the electric kettle, woo hoo!), I gradually came to understand that when people offered you a cup of tea they would be uncomfortable if you didn’t accept. After 20 some years I still don’t like hot tea with milk (or cold tea with milk, for that matter), but I have adjusted my taste buds to enjoy black hot tea. The joke is always the same when I go to a new house:

‘Tea? Coffee?’

‘What are you having?’

‘Well I was going to have a tea.’

‘Tea would be lovely, thanks. Black please.’

‘Black? As in black–no milk?’

‘No milk, thanks.’

‘Lemon? Oh, actually I’m not sure if we have lemon.’

‘No, just black. Maybe some cold water though.’

‘Black? Really?’

Here comes the ‘joke’ just to ease their confusion:

‘Yes, even after living here 20 years I still can’t get used to putting milk in my tea–only just getting used to having hot tea!’

‘Hahaha! Yes, you Americans and your iced tea! Now that’s what I call weird!’ Meant in a nice way, I can see, because she thinks we’re exchanging what we think is weird about the other culture. She thinks I think milk in tea is weird, but I don’t. I just don’t like the taste.

Now that coffee has improved enormously in the English speaking world–both instant stuff and the make-your-own-cafe-style-with-noisy-machines stuff, I also drink coffee sometimes. In fact, I love the dark, rich after dinner coffee served at dinner parties with cream. But only every now and then.

And because I have figured out what the British already knew, that the cold and damp can be fought with hot drinks I have learned to branch out and have discovered all kinds of herbal teas. When I was at uni herbal teas tasted like chemicals, but they too have improved. Everyone in our house likes hot drinks so I like to keep a selection and I love trying new ones. We have a really lovely cinnamon-and-other-things tea I’m enjoying right now. My 13 yo likes nettle tea and Tick Tock (Rooibos), the older kids like peppermint, chamomile, raspberry and sometimes nettle. Husband likes chamomile and peppermint. I drink green tea, but I keep black tea because the 16 yo boy and oldest daughter like that. And it’s for guests. We have both ‘real’ coffee and instant. Husband declares that real is too strong so we’ve taste-tested many instants and decided on one that we like best. Then there’s hot chocolate. Whenever I buy hot chocolate I put it right at the back so it disappears in two days instead of 30 minutes. That’s why you can’t see it in this photo. And the mini marshmallows I keep hidden in a Secret Place.

And yes, the cupboard is usually that tidy. Not that all the cupboards in my house are, but this one has to be so everyone can see the selection and no boxes are forgotten at the back getting stale and flavourless.

For someone who never really liked hot drinks growing up, I never imagined I would have a whole cupboard of them!

What hot drinks do you keep on hand?


Your Comments

28 Comments so far

  1. Hot chocolate always plus that old horse chesnut Ovaltine though I must admit I haven’t seen it in the shops of late and my jar must be at least five years old…no don’t go there it’s a family traight to keep things long past their sell by date and insist on using them!

    • Michelloui says:

      Hahaha! But you know, the sell by date is merely a guideline for ‘foods’ like that–it doesn’t mean the food if off. It would be wasteful to throw it out!! 😉

  2. Karen says:

    My mother, who also doesn’t take milk in her tea, has the same conversation every time she comes to visit me in London. She learned the hard way that you actually have to pre-empt the milk question, as they often won’t even ask before putting milk in there!

    • Michelloui says:

      No, I know! I;ve learned the same that you must either pre-empt the milk pouring or sit and put up with it. Or sometimes I get someone who has heard what I said, they even got the benefit of the little joke I always make, then while chatting and on auto-pilot they still put it in, hand it to me and we sit to chat. Suddenly they jump and exclaim they are so sorry they just remembered they put milk in my tea and can they make me a new one?! I politely decline and just sip at it. It’s all such a big palaver isnt it? 😉

  3. Rebecca says:

    When I lived in the US, I drank tea and coffee, but not daily, and I loved Twinings Irish Breakfast. Oddly enough, Irish Breakfast is not available in England or Ireland. And I never added milk (because I don’t like milk that much), only a spoonful of Splenda. When I was visiting my husband, he would make several cups of Tetley every day and I’d always have a cup with him, but I started not feeling well from all the caffeine, so I switched to Redbush, still only with Splenda.

    Everyone always thought I was odd when I asked for black tea, but not so odd in my family since my SIL doesn’t like hot drinks at all. But my husband one day “accidentally” put milk in my tea….and I decided it wasn’t too bad after all.

    Out on our counter with the kettle are the tins of tetley regular and redbush. Always. We also have white hot chocolate, mint hot chocolate, hot chocolate that needs milk, ovaltine, horlicks, Earl Grey, green tea with cranberries, instant coffee (eww), ground coffee and ground hazlenut coffee, and 3 instant cappuccino things a friend sent me. Whew, that’s a lot!!

  4. NFAH says:

    I still remain resolute that instant coffee is evil!

    • Michelloui says:

      My OH thinks ‘real’ coffee makes him feel unwell and yet prefers the taste of coffee over tea so… little choice other than searching for the ideal instant! But we do have the real stuff just so no one thinks we’re too heathen.

  5. Star says:

    Your cupboard is very tidy! Congratulations. We drink tea, tea and tea but we also drink coffee. My favourite is Mellow Birds because it is mild. I don’t like ‘real’ coffee at all but I do like the smell of it. We all like Ovaltine and Hot Chocolate (in that order). I like hot orange juice (made with the dilutable sort of orange juice) and blackcurrant. I will drink anything hot. Hot milk is delicious too.
    I have a real problem in America (glum look). I hardly like anything over there. Everything is too sweet. The tea is awful especially the iced tea with sugar in it (ugh. The hot chocolate is too sweet and tends to come with fake cream on the top of it. Hazlenut latte would be delicious without the sugar. Oh my, the thought of it all gives me apoplexy. The other problem is I won’t drink out of the plastic cups over there. I hate them. They taint the drink especially tea. Hot tea in a plastic cup with half and half milk in it is disgusting. I tend to take my own ceramic mug around with me when I’m over there. The Starbucks mugs are too big and too heavy and too crude.
    At last I found a proper tea shop in Knoxville. They have proper teapots with proper china tea cups and lovely black tea to go in it with full whole milk. Heaven. I go in there a lot! but it’s expensive. They also do lots of exotic teas which are lovely and refreshing.
    I hope that doesn’t sound too grumpy!
    Blessings, Star

    • Michelloui says:

      This made me laugh–drinks in the States are really sugary, aren’t they?! And I remember the breakroom in the bookshop I used to work for when I first moved to the UK had plastic disposable cups and plastic cup holders for tea. I too thought it tainted the tea. Awful!!! The tea would slightly melt the cup making it shape to the holder. And now we know that heating plastic and drinking liquids from it is a carcinogen. Trust your tastebuds.

      How fun for you that you found a proper tea shop in Knoxville!

      And no, it doesnt sound grumpy at all. :)

  6. LJB says:

    Milk in tea IS weird. Iced tea is also weird. Black tea goes with lemon and/or sugar, green/other herbal tea just without anything… That’s the rules according to me :)

    Coffee cannot be instant and needs a bit of milk, no sugar. Flavoured coffees are weird.

    Mulled wine is good. Hot chocolate is good if it’s not too sweet. Miso soup is good. Instant miso soup is weird.

    • Michelloui says:

      Umm… I have instant Miso soup. Yummmmm!! 😉

      Mulled wine is very very good. We also do mulled apple juice for the drivers, which is very very good as well.

      It’s good to have rules.

  7. Lisa says:

    I am a vocal coach and one of my voice students (who is 15) recently went on a family vacation to Florida. When he came back he told me he had a question to ask. He told me while in Florida his mom ordered tea and they brought her a cold drink in a glass with ice and it tasted disgusting. I tried not to laugh too hard and told him that in a hot place like Florida if you order tea they will probably assume you are ordering an iced tea and that is what that was. He was thoroughly confused at the idea of cold tea with ice in it and no milk.

    • Michelloui says:

      Thats funny! And my husband says the same thing when he’s offered iced tea in the states–‘tea isnt mean to be cold.’ He’s a coffee drinker anyway, so what does he know?!

  8. Kristen says:

    Even though I live in Florida, I love my hot drinks in the morning and at night. I generally choose a tea based on whether I need a pick-me-up or want to relax. My favorite teas (and hot drinks) are:

    Chai (Tazo or Dunkin Donuts)
    Bigelow French Vanilla tea (devine!)
    Harney and Sons Holiday Tea (it’s like drinking the holidays, so cozy)
    The Republic of Tea-Blackberry Sage
    Mrs. Mangos Hibiscus and Rose Hips herbal tea
    Twinings-Green Tea with Jasmine
    Celestial Seasonings-Peach Herbal Tea
    Ghirardelli Hot Cocoa (I make it with hot milk, not water, sooo yummy!)

    And of course I have to represent my favorite iced teas! Luzianne and Jason’s Deli Black Currant :)


    • Michelloui says:

      That sounds like a fantastic list of drinks! The Holiday Tea sounds really intriguing. I miss Celestial Seasonings. Ive only found Sleepytime readily available here.

  9. Iota says:

    Yes, it DOES make us uncomfortable if you say you don’t want a drink of tea/coffee? Isn’t that odd? There’s definitely a blog post in there.

    Peppermint tea is my recent favourite.

    • Michelloui says:

      Thats really interesting that you picked up on that, I wondered if anyone would and I am certainly not surprised it was you! I debated about writing more ont hat but thought I’d stay focused and save that for another time… or could I suggest we both use that as a theme sometime?

  10. Kym Hamer says:

    Coffee, hot chocolate and herbal tea get the thumbs up – all sans milk!

    And I don’t drink tea at all…this may just beg the question, what am I doing here?

  11. Joel Woiton says:

    Just as hot drinks are comforting in cold, damp England. In Texas, where temperatures are about 35C everyday in the summer, iced tea is a life saver. I usually only drink hot tea when I eat chinese food.

    • Michelloui says:

      Iced tea in hot weather any time!!! And yes, hot tea after food like Chinese is perfect for the digestion.

  12. mamaUK says:

    I have a ‘secret place’ where I hide all the chocolate my husband and I want to eat before the children spy it and gobble it down!

  13. Lisa says:

    I cannot and will not get rid of my coffee addiction. 😉

    • Michelloui says:

      And nor should you if you don’t want to! I love coffee, but only every now and then. Sometimes I have a complete craving for it, while other times I just think, meh.


  1. Zen Cuppa | The American Resident - 05/02/2011

    […] because I wasn’t a hot drink drinker the first few years of my British life. When I wrote about my hot drink cupboard Iota picked up on my hint at American confusion and ran with it when she wrote about the meaning […]

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An American writer in the UK for over 20 years. Lives in Essex. A pretend extrovert.

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