I’ve been accused of having a binary notion of the world: of seeing it in black and white. Perhaps that’s why I equate tea with England; coffee with the U.S.; wine with France; beer with Belgium; rum with the Caribbean; and whiskey with Scotland.
But my neat little liquid equation could be in for a revision.
The BBC query, “Should a Latte Be the Symbol of Modern Britain?” asked readers to offer their suggestions on “what product should be the symbol of modern Britain?” The comments offered a glimpse into the changing English taste.
One reader said: “Out with the butty, in with the bruschetta.” A social commentator remarked, “Now that pizza and taramasalata has replaced cabbage and stew as the national school dinner, it seems inevitable that a takeaway latte has replaced the cup of tea or pint of bitter as a national drink.”
Yet, interestingly, while the beverage of choice for the English could gradually be shifting to coffee beans, tea leaves are steadily seeping into popularity in America.
For Silicon Valley’s Web 2.0 techie-billionaires, tea is the new coffee, reports WIRED. According to the U.S. Tea Association, in 2007, Americans drank well over 55 billion servings of tea. But 85 percent of this was iced. The culture that brought us $20,000 coffeemakers has now discovered tea.
These shifts are the cultural footprints of the thunderous march of multiculturalism across the world. It’s, to my mind, a double-edged sword. In our push to embrace diversity, aren’t we also losing our national stamps in the process, the very traits that make us “us”?
In related development, another English institution, the pub, is also fast disappearing, writes Henry Shukman in the New York Times.
The pub—that smoky, yeasty den of jollity … the womb of Englishness … is suddenly dying and evolving at equal rates.
Closing at something like a rate of more than three a day, pubs have become scarce enough that for the first time since the Domesday Book, more than half the villages in England no longer have one.
It’s a rare pub that still thrives or even limps on, by being what it was meant to be: a drinking establishment. The old idea of a pub as a place for a “session,” a lengthy, restful, increasingly tipsy evening of swigging, is all but defunct.