The Tea Experiment
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
NOTE: My three sons caught me drinking a caffeine-free, diet Pepsi and derided me for my choice in beverages when I responded, “Drinking caffeine-free, diet Pepsi is much akin to kissing one’s sister. The magic is missing and yet, if you do enjoy it, there is something very wrong with you.” Their reaction to my quaint allusion was one of strict revulsion and after discussion, my middle son challenged me to use the expression in a story. The writing exercise follows and it appears that all I have succeeded in is creating my first, albeit subtle, questionable joke.
I had joined my friend, Carl Addison, in his rooms, some floors above the busy streets of London. There, ensconced in his library we discussed Queen Victoria’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee and other matters, when Carl summoned his sister, Violet, to kindly bring us some tea.
Carl was addicted to Souchong, imported by the East India Tea Company, and Carl was enchanted by the deep, rich flavor and smoky aroma that came from preparing the tea over slowly smouldering pine logs. I myself enjoyed a good cup of orange pekoe, but I did not wish to inconvenience Violet by making her brew two separate pots. In my own rooms, I drank naught but Bohea, but as Carl referred to the brand merely as swill, I kept my poverty-induced secrets to myself.
Violet brought us the tea service and acted as hostess while she poured the strong libation into individual cups. Though normally living at the family estate in Sussex, an outbreak of cholera in the nearby village had persuaded her parents it best that Violet stay with her brother in London until the infection ran its course through the populace. She was a delicate creature of eighteen years and though her hair and eyes were a mousy brown, her feminine features and pretty face made up for other minor faults. In her company, I usually found my own thoughts pondering possibilities between us, but my future as a barrister had not yet been assured and her parents would never condone a relationship between their priceless Violet and a lowly student unable to even afford a decent tea. I found myself unable to keep my gaze off of her as she left the room.
Fortunately, Carl had not noticed my sudden lack of manners. Lost in his steaming cup, he inhaled the aroma deeply. “How I do love a good cup of tea,” he said. “I believe it is what has made Britain what it is today.” He lifted his cup in a form of salute. “British ingenuity and tea. The sun will never set on our empire.”
“Here, here,” I replied and joined him in our first sip of the heady brew.
He sat the cup down on his tray, momentary lost in thought. “Do you know the Americans are exporting their tea from Indonesia?”
“You don’t say,” I responded.
“By my word,” he said. “As if they could compete with our own resources in India. You know, I confess that I tried some.”
“How bohémien,” I replied with some surprise. “And what was it like?”
“Beastly stuff,” he said as he once again picked up his cup of Souchong. “Beastly stuff fit only for a beastly people of a beastly country.”
“Indonesian tea,” I mused with a faint shudder. “Drinking it must be akin to kissing one’s sister. The magic is completely missing and yet, if you do enjoy it, it implies there is something very wrong with you.”
Carl put the cup back down on the tray, his brow furrowed in puzzlement. “What a ghastly thing to say,” he said.
“C'est juste une façon de parler,” I replied with a shrug. “Merely a figure of speech, but the spirit of it is true.”
“I daresay you might be right.” At that we heard a faint knock at the door and Violet entered. “I’ve come to gather up the tea things,” she said.
“Thank you, my dear,” Carl said, “but may I impose on your good nature to assist in an experiment?”
“Why, dear Carl, you know I am always willing to help you with your studies.”
With that, Carl got up off his chair and immediately swept her up in an embrace.
Stunned into inactivity, I could only watch and stare with mouth agape as Carl smothered his sister with a kiss directly on her lips, holding her as Violet’s eyes grew wide in shock and horror. It was a full half a minute before he released her and, with a shriek, Violet fled the room.
I ran to the hallway only to see Violet fleeing into her bedroom and slamming the door shut followed by distant muffled sobs.
ENDING THE FIRST
I turned to see Carl back in his chair, deep in thought. “And what,” I demanded in a fury, “was the result of that?”
Carl looked at me, lost in a pensive mood. “I fear,” he said, “that in the near future whenever I think of dear Violet, I shall always think first of Indonesian tea.”
ENDING THE SECOND
Carl looked at me, lost in a pensive mood. “I fear,” he said, “that there is something very wrong with me.”