The importance of tea and mugs

I felt inspired by @ayiasophia‘s post on favourite mugs.

It reminded me of starting my first proper post-PhD job. It was in an office of about 10 people. On my very first day my new boss introduced me to everyone and drew for me a map of the office, writing down where everyone sat, and how they took their tea.

Drinking tea was taken very seriously in that office. This was not at all a “new girl make the tea” situation. Anyone intending to make a hot drink was obliged, by unwritten but nevertheless strictly enforced social contract, to say “who wants tea?” or words to that effect, and to make tea for everyone who said yes. Sometimes this took two boils of the kettle. Making tea was serious business.

The available mugs were all the same shape, so there was no mug-shape preference, simply “strong with a little bit of milk”, “weak and milky”, “brew for at least 5 minutes then put lots of milk in”, “Earl Grey with no milk”, “don’t care as long as it is hot and brown”. I quickly identified a mug that I wanted to claim as “mine” – I am a little ashamed to say that I chose the pink mug, but the reasons were entirely practical. In an office that is 80% men, if you pick the pink mug nobody else is likely to use it (and that’s kind of sad as well, really). When you are making a round of tea with 5 identical blueish mugs and one pink mug, you know that at least one person is going to get their tea in the mug they had before. (don’t talk to me about washing up)

Personally my mug preferences are more strongly geared towards then size than the shape. My dad refuses to drink tea out of a mug that is tapered, it must be straight-sided. That’s a lie of course, he wouldn’t refuse tea, he’s not that rude, his reaction would range from being-sightly-less-happy to outright-telling-you-that-you-did-it-wrong depending on who you are. I don’t mind a straight-sided or tapered mug, although one that goes out-then-in is a bit rubbish, and square mugs are rather tricky.

At work there are a bunch of generic matching mugs bought by the company, and a smattering of “personal mugs”. I don’t mean that they are cheesy “Best mummy in the world” mugs, and there’s no sign of the infamous “You don’t have to be mad to work here…”. Just that there are a few mugs that belong to people.

I have a large mug with one of these on:


That means that I get to have “Alot of tea”. Yes, I’m hilarious.

If you want to read about the Alot look here. If you also want to drink Alot of tea, please get it from the official store. Yeah, I know it’s easy to just save the file and upload it to a mug-printing site, but please don’t. It’s not very nice.

And if you’re interested in how a company with more than 2-kettles-worth of people manages to organise tea-making, check this out. Even in a small office, sometimes intervention is needed for that one person who always says “yes” but never says “tea?”.



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