My grandparent’s house was just a couple of blocks from our house; it was a 3-minute bicycle ride up Peel Street, through the laneway and into Eliza Street. We wouldn’t visit often but would always call in unannounced for some of Nanna’s after school treats. My grandad was a tinsmith. Every morning he would walk to the Newport railway station, always wearing his hat and carrying a kitbag, to take the train to North Melbourne. I only knew the kitbag to have in it a thermos of tea and a beetroot sandwich but it probably had whatever else a tinsmith needed for a day of soldering metals. After Grandad got home from work, or on a weekend afternoon, he would sit at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea. He had tea without milk and he would pour tea from the cup into the saucer, blow on the tea in the saucer, and then drink from the saucer.
Whenever my mother had visitors she would always put the kettle on for a cup of tea. My Aunts always put the kettle on for a cup of tea. My cousin always put the kettle on. I always used to put the kettle on for a cup of tea. None of the visitors, my mum or aunts, my cousins or I never drank tea from the saucer. Having tea was always a leisurely, social, shared time. My grandfather’s tea breaks or tea times were always defined by time; a rushed quick cuppa in the morning, lunchtime, and mid-afternoon between soldering metals. The tea had to be drunk quickly so, therefore, had to be cooled quickly. I think the kitbag must also have carried a saucer so he could pour the tea from the thermos into the saucer, blow on it to cool it and then drink from the saucer before returning to the waiting metals. So I always grew up having a cup of tea until late teenage rebellion introduced me to the mysterious coffees produced by the Faema espresso machines that were sprouting in the Italian and Greek migrant coffee shops in Carlton and Brunswick. This was the rebellious seventies, flaunting our independence and conspiring against the society we once knew by drinking lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos.
The espresso assault by the new wave of European immigrants happened and Melbourne became the coffee capital of Australia. The short black and flat whites were created and the cities coffee culture is known worldwide and Melbourne is one of the world’s greatest coffee cities. I wonder if my grandad would pour a flat white into a saucer, blow on it to cool it and then drink from the saucer: but then he never put milk in his tea so he would probably drink espresso.