Few things inject such quiet pleasure into the working day as a refreshing cup of tea, made just the way you like it; conversely, few things are so dissatisfying as a cup of tea made the way you don't like it – which brings us to the quandary of the office tea round.
Several times a day, you and colleagues at nearby desks take turns offering to make a brew for one another. Some take more turns than others. Shirkers think no one notices; silent resentment builds.
Sometimes you just want to get your own. Cue baleful glances. A screen break becomes a guilt trip.
Taste-wise, doleful compromise is inevitable. It is, after all, rare for two people – let alone half a dozen – to favour their tea being made in precisely the same way. How long do you like the bag left in for: two minutes? Four? How milky? Do you like your cuppa to be caramel-coloured, russet, burnt umber? Ignoring these subtleties, tea-rounders tend to blithely plump for a one-size-fits-all beige bodge.
Yes, you could switch to the less nuanced caffeine-delivery vehicle that is coffee – but we are British, for heaven's sake: we're not in an episode of Friends. The Empire was built on leaves from Darjeeling, not beans from Brazil.
Despite all this, it's poor form to opt out. The finest offices enjoy an air of sociability; the tea round helps engender this. Besides, you don't want to be "that guy".
So I'm in. I'll take mine black, ta. It's not how I like it most, but at least I don't risk drinking arbitrary shades of murkiness. Sure, if you go solo, you'll enjoy a nicer cuppa, but it's the taking part that counts – there aren't enough things you can say that about these days.
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