Dregs of tea and cake crumbs—as a pair, these two eloquently sum up a repast of delicate proportions, wedged in the corners of mealtimes. I used to regard the act of sipping on tea, usually engaged in by grown-ups, with suspicious envy. Could a simple brew honestly smoothen brows and relax limbs, provide a fleeting sense of time regained? My own squat, ungainly cup of always-scalding milk did not elicit any such emotion. It didn’t evoke the sort of revulsion it did in most of my friends either. I used to get cajoled by friends into saying I dislike papaya and milk. Make the appropriate squeamish noises. Even now, I feel the need to over-validate my response to a piece of music, literature or dessert in the light of the majoritarian opinion. I do not like Wes Anderson movies, Coldplay’s music and Philip Roth’s books (the last one may not be completely true, I have only read Nemesis, but I disliked it deeply).
It is vaguely surprising and a relief that none of the romance I associated with the glory of tea-time was excessive. It is a comprehensively pleasurable experience, marred only by the progressive cooling of the tea. One could invest in a tea doily of course, but there is only so much shelf space one can grant to one’s tea things. While I’m nowhere near the mountain of dainty crockery some people own I fear that my obsession with mugs borders on the hysterical. But what’s moist, squidgy cake that’s not arrayed on a pretty plate and err, lots of variously-patterned mugs to go with it?