Iranians are obsessed with tea, the amount of times I was force fed the stuff. The obsession reached crisis point one afternoon when I was being driven to a bus terminal. We were running late for the bus, so naturally I was a little on edge, mainly because I’d seen enough of the desert and desperately wanted to get out. ‘This sand is really starting to get on my nerves. Look at it, it’s everywhere. In my shoes, my pockets, my camera… this is ridiculous. I want nothing to interfere with me getting the hell away from this desert, 10 days is enough’. Because we’re running late, naturally my driver decides to stop and have some tea. Wtf? Not only do I not want yet another bloody tea, I don’t want to have one at the cost of me getting out of the desert. No chance – into the tea shed we stroll, and a massive glass of tea is handed to me. ‘For fucks sake’ I think, ‘this is ridiculous’. I really, really don’t want it. My stomach is already filled with the stuff, every time I move I feel it slushing around.
Iranians have an extremely high tolerance to boiling water. The tea will be poured, piping hot, straight from the kettle, and they’ll neck it like an Anglo necks beer. I don’t have a high tolerance to boiling water, so I need to wait til mine settles. They all look at me shaking their heads, ‘Why doesn’t he just drink it?’. One small sip. Ouch, too hot. Just give me a minute. Another small sip. Ouch, still too hot. And so on. It is a humiliating experience. They’re all swallowing balls of fire, eating cubes of raw sugar straight from the jar, and I can’t even manage a cup of tea. My driver is ready to go, now he’s getting edgy about time. ‘See, if you’d listened to me, we wouldn’t be in this mess’. So for the next 5 minutes I take baby sips of the tea, burning myself each time, while everyone looks at me in disgust. I’d have loved to have just left it there, but you can’t knock back a tea in Iran, it’d be like a woman showing her hair, ‘How dare you!’. You don’t get a say, just drink the damn thing. Then when you’ve finished, drink another. I’d generally be ok with the first few, after the third I’d start getting worried. After the fifth I’m starting to panic. Then I’d hear the woman rustling around in the kitchen, ‘Oh no, I think they’re having another round. No thank you’. They just laugh and hand it to me anyway. I struggle through another. And another. And another. ‘Please, no more’, as tea starts leaking out of my eyes. I get up and smile, ‘Ok I’m leaving now’. They insist I stay for another…’Tea? Tea?’ ‘We’ve already had 7 glasses, are you people insane?! It’s a 5 minute walk to the loo from my room, i need to control my liquid intake, I’m going to be up all night’. That’s true, a devastating side effect from the excessive consumption of tea, means ill be weeing 12 times a day for the next 5 years. I’d be wandering through the yard at 3am, crashing into goats and chickens while looking for the toilet. ‘He’s at it again, that’s the fourth time tonight’.
Isn’t the point of tea, as in England and Australia, to accompany something you’re doing, I.e talking to a friend, watching tv, reading, relaxing, getting you through a day at work? We don’t say as we’re speeding along the highway, ‘hold on, just going to pull in here and neck a boiling hot cup of tea. I don’t get it.’ To be honest I don’t get tea in general. To me, it’s just flavoured water. If I never have another tea, forced down my throat or otherwise, I’ll be a happy man.