Serious coffee drinkers say that adding milk or sugar (or, worse, both) destroys their carefully brewed beverage. I am not a serious coffee drinker. I’m sure I can’t tell the difference between one single-source, estate-grown bean and another. I have no argument with those who can; I just don’t care quite that much. (Also, I like milk and sugar. And, on occasion, a little chocolate.)
I admit that my proportion of coffee to condiment has risen over the years, and I have developed a preference for dark roasts over lighter ones. I appreciate the benefits of freshness, so I buy whole-bean coffee and grind it at home.
She drinks tea, and she’s pretty serious about it. There are teas that take milk and teas that take lemon; the ones that take milk do not take cream, and so on. I haven’t had a complete education on the subject, since most of the time she prefers it one way. So I learned to make tea for her. (Plunking a bag of Lipton’s in a mug of water that you microwave for two minutes is, it turns out, not the best way to do it.)
Most days, one of us stumbles to the kitchen to prepare our Elixirs of Wakefulness. I take the weekday shift; usually on weekends, she does the stumbling. She makes excellent coffee, a skill she acquired while working at a dairy store during college. Along the way, she didn’t acquire a taste for the stuff herself.
Her tea strainers are cup-shaped frames with sides of fine mesh. They allow better water circulation than ball-shaped infusers. Each holds enough leaves for a single mugful; I use two, so she can have a bonus cup before leaving for work. For coffee, I use unbleached paper filters in a 2-cup sized cone-shaped cup-top holder. Both brews require very hot water, which comes from a trusty electric kettle that I have wanted since I first saw one in London. It’s fast, doesn’t take up a burner on the stove, and shuts itself off when the water boils rather than shrieking for attention. Also, in a pinch, you can hard-boil eggs in it. We each have a favorite mug for home, and travel mugs for carrying a cup to work. The mugs are never interchanged. There are other ways of making coffee and tea, but these tools are the ones we use most often; they give us the best results with minimal effort. We own a 12-cup Mr. Coffee and a nice teapot, but neither is used except when company comes calling.
She drinks coffee only under duress. I drink tea when I’m recovering from a cold. How much tea, how much coffee; how much milk, how much sugar: by now, we know each other’s cup. Are we picky about our beverages? Maybe a little. Mostly, we know what we like, and we have sorted out how to do it. We learn how to do things, and we teach each other. We go through our days, one sip at a time.