A Delightful Dilemma


By Karen Jurgens

I like coffee, my sister likes tea; and that is why we can never agree ~ Attributed to Mother Goose.


My first exposure to the delights of coffee happened at my grandmother’s house at the tender age of six. In the mornings, she always had a percolator bubbling, the rich aroma snaking through that sunny Arizona kitchen. She never treated me like the child I was, evidenced by placing a steaming cup of black coffee next to my plate of fried eggs and bacon. After I had greedily spooned in sugar and drenched the top with cream, I was hooked from the first sip. Growing up, I pursued my love of coffee at every meal … alone. No one else in my family drank coffee. In fact, my father refused to even taste it. Unimaginable!


My mother’s beverage of choice was tea, and I remember china cups and saucers, half-empty and cold, perched on tables around the house—set and forgotten wherever she happened to be at the time. Tea seemed to be a fancier beverage—a refined choice, like the English who base their empire on it—and a fitting one for my mother. She exposed me to High Tea in posh tea rooms, where I especially loved indulging in the beautifully served sweet and savory bites more than the red contents of the cup.

One memory from my teen years takes me back to a famous London hotel where I had my first English High Tea. My excitement clouded my judgment, so as the bowls and pitchers circled, I not only loaded my teacup with sugar and cream but also squeezed in a lemon. The hot, beige liquid promptly curdled. In spite of my embarrassment, I ignored the predicament and forced it down. It tasted horrible, always serving as a reminder of that day’s lesson.

courtesy of alalay.co.uk

courtesy of alalay.co.uk

My all-time favorite is Cream Tea. I was first introduced to it in Stratford, England, before attending a Shakespearian play. Surmising that the  “cream” meant lots of dollops for the tea, my delight rocketed after learning that it was for buttered scones topped with strawberry jam and lots of fresh, whipped cream—a  luscious treat I love to indulge in to this day.

courtesy of Charleston coffee exchange.com

courtesy of Charleston coffee exchange.com

Today’s preference? It’s declared a tie. As for coffee, organic Italian is my current favorite, having replaced my longtime love affair with dark French roast. Although French can be rather biting in its black strength, it is still my regular after-dinner indulgence in its decaffeinated form.   Mornings and evenings are crowned with a fragrant mug lightened with milk—or cream on special occasions, like birthday parties and Christmas. Or just because.


As for tea, I prefer imported British blends, especially black teas such as Breakfast Blend or Earl Grey. I know I should include green tea because of its nutritional benefits, but I just can’t enjoy it with milk. A true tea connoisseur would be horrified at my common choices, but my taste buds for those snooty leaves cannot do them justice. So, my afternoons will be forever dedicated to my favorite china teapot snugged in its cozy, providing steeped comfort laced with milk. Unlike Southerners who insist on their tea iced all year round, I only indulge over ice on broiling-hot summer afternoons, as long as I’m provided with plenty of juicy-fat lemon wedges.

My two daughters, now young women, are good examples of the truth from the nursery rhyme because one only likes coffee and the other only likes tea. But between the two of them, I can enjoy my favorite beverage with someone all day long.

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt: Relate a story about when you first discovered your love of either coffee or tea, and which kind of blend is your favorite.