"" Writer's Wanderings: Not My Cup of Tea

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Not My Cup of Tea

As we explored the shopping area of Buenos Aires, we noticed some unusual items in many of the store windows. I’m not an expert on drug paraphernalia but these items looked suspicious. They were round cups made of wood (actually a gourd) and a variety of other materials and each had a silver/metal straw in them that ended in a little silver strainer-type contraption on the end that was inserted into the cup. Did you smoke something in it, I wondered?

Window after shop window, we passed the same thing with unique designs, materials, and decorations. This was getting to be too much, I decided. At an outdoor craft market there was a table full of these cups with their unusual straws and a fellow whose English was pretty good so I gathered the courage to ask.

“It is mate--our national drink!” He was amazed that I didn’t know that. From a chair behind him, he picked up his own cup and showed me. “It is our tea. See?”

I peered into the cup at a concoction of liquid mixed with some sort of leaves. There was more leaf material than liquid it seemed. Then the light bulb went on in my head. Of course, they put their tea leaves in the hot water in their cup and the drink is strained through the straw. How clever. It reminded me of the Japanese teapot my daughter-in-law had given me where the strainer was in the spout.

I lifted the cup close enough to my nose to take a whiff. It was not the aroma I expected. While the gentleman insisted it wasn’t tobacco, I was sure it had to be at least a first cousin to the plant. It reminded me of my grandfather’s old cigars when they would get wet in an ashtray he kept outside.

The opportunity arose to purchase some tea and one of the cups but I passed. I can’t imagine it tasting any better than it smelled and tobacco juice isn’t my cup of tea.

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