Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm Really Tea'd Off

A pet peeve (or pet hate) is a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to him or her, to a greater degree than others may find it. – Wikipedia.

I’m going to start this blog with a very brief botany/beverage lesson.

Tea is the product of processing leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant using a variety of methods, and then pouring hot or boiling water over it. The oil from the processed leaves then incorporates into the water and creates an aromatic and slightly bitter beverage. There are several methods of processing the leaves, which produces several varieties, such as white, yellow, green, oolong, and the most common, black tea. Other teas, such as “herbal” teas, are not really teas at all, since there is no presence of Camellia sinensis. Tea can be served in a variety of ways, the most popular in the United States being “Iced” tea.

This is where my gripe begins…

I have, on numerous occasions, enjoyed a nice dinner out with my family. And by family, I mean the whole gang, Mom, Dad, sister, brother-in-law, wife, kids, dogs, etc. My family usually takes up that big round table in the corner of a restaurant. You know, the empty one that you always stare at when you’re waiting for your two person booth for an hour. I always feel sorry for the waitress who gets to serve us, since we are such a “boisterous” lot.

The first request is our drink choice, which varies among my family members. We order root beer for the kids, some form of raspberry tea for Mom and sis, and Coke for the rest, except me. I usually order an iced tea.

Using the definition above, I expect that if I order an “iced tea”, that I would receive a water based beverage that has been run over crushed, dried Camellia sinensis leaves, and served over ice. However, this is almost never the case. I almost always have to predicate my order with “…and no lemon please.” I understand that it is common to garnish iced tea with a wedge of lemon, but I personally do not have a taste for lemon in my tea. It’s easy enough to remove the lemon if it’s dangling from the edge of the glass, but please don’t submerge it into my tea, letting loose all of its pulpy invaders and inevitable seed plugs for my straw. Plus, I can only imagine the journey that lemon went through prior to tainting my drink. I always picture a greasy fat man in the back of the kitchen, picking a lemon off the floor from behind the garbage can, wiping his nose from the crook of his elbow to the tip of his index finger, and then cutting a wedge with a rusty knife and tossing it in my tea. I know, that seems awfully extreme, but I’ve heard stories, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

So the drinks finally come out and I take a long draw from my straw...

“Excuse me, waitress?”

“Yes sir. What do you need?”

“Umm… why does my iced tea taste like Kool-Aid?”

“What do you mean?”

“My tea tastes sweet. It’s not supposed to be sweet, it’s iced tea.”

“Oh, well you didn’t specify ‘unsweet’, so I brought you ‘sweet’ tea.”

“Why would you do that? Why do I have to specify ‘unsweet’?”


Someone please explain this to me. There seems to be a growing trend of “sweet” tea taking over as the norm. I am fully aware that in the southern states, it is much more common for people to order sweet tea. I’ve been to the south, and they always ask you “sweet or unsweet?” There is no assumption, and there shouldn’t be one. If OHIO wants to start including itself in the southern states, then at the very least, they should ASK me if I want sweet or unsweet.

And what exactly does “unsweet” mean? Why would you use such an absurd adjective to denote a style of beverage? How many blank stares would I get if I ordered an “unsalty” iced tea. It seems like asking for an unsalty iced would be an equally correct description of what I desire. “Unbitter” iced tea would be ridiculous since tea is always bitter in its natural state. It SHOULD be denoted as “tea” or “sweet tea”. If you order "sweet tea", you get sweet tea; if you order "tea", you get tea with nothing in it.

Imagine for a moment if other areas of our food had the same problem.

“Waitress! There is cinnamon all over my apple sauce.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. You didn’t say you wanted ‘uncinnamon’.”

“...and what the hell is all over my fries?”

“That’s poutine. Did you want your fries ‘unpoutine’?”

(Poutine is a Canadian dish consisting of French fries covered with cheese curds and brown gravy.)

Like I said before, I have no problem taking a wedge of lemon off the side of my glass, but it is physically impossible to undiffuse sugar from my iced tea. I would at least like the courtesy of being asked instead of them assuming that if I order tea, that I want it sweet.

The other thing that grind my gears is when my iced tea comes out and there is NO ICE. That means one of two things, either the waitress is an idiot and didn’t put enough ice in my glass, or she let it sit for 10 minutes before bringing it out to me. Both means that you suck as a waitress.

I don’t want people to think that I am some sort of over picky ass who waitresses loathe to get. It’s not like I have ridiculous requests like ordering liver & onions and telling them to hold the onions. It’s not like I am ordering a three bean chili, but I only want two of the three beans. It’s not like I’m ordering a bowl of vegetable soup without the carrots or celery. I am asking for something very simple. Get some tea leaves, pour hot water over it, dump it into a glass full of ice, and DON”T PUT ANY SUGAR IN IT!

Now I'm thirsty.

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