How do you take it?

Recently, I had a visit from a nice electrician. I asked, as you do,

“Cuppa tea?”

and got the expected response,

“Ooh, yes please.”

“How do you take it?” I asked, and immediately felt a blanket of serene warmth settle over me. What a lovely, intimate question. We ask this all the time. (If you don’t, you should.)

When else in our daily lives do we ask something so refreshingly straightforward and simple, and indicative that we care? “How do you take it?” is a completely open question, making no assumptions, allowing the recipient the freedom to answer uninfluenced on their preferences. They are filled with the kind of satisfaction offered to a child who has been reproached or ignored in the past but is now being encouraged to explore where they have been previously unallowed.

How this question is answered is always interesting too; the answer itself and the manner in which the person responds is quite telling, and you may learn more than just how they take their tea. How much they like you, how much they think you like them, how much they want you to be interested in them and their personal needs. How they are lactose intolerant.

I think there is something lovely about the words too. “How do you take it?” has a nice gentle sound to it, and perhaps reminds me of the kind of situation in which it originated. (Probably high society entertaining in black and white romances, or in terribly thoughtful period dramas, in my experience at least. In these the recipient always seems to be pleasantly, coyly surprised and touched by the affection behind the question. Perhaps I ought to dissociate things like this in my mind from such everyday occurrences, but it serves only happiness for me now.)
As well as opening up a discourse between tea giver and receiver, the giver of course now has a second opportunity to become closer to the receiver. They can remember the receiver’s preferences. Ultimately impressive, thoughtful and compassionate.


One should remember too that there are a number of points at which decisions are made in the making of tea. Each decision made correctly is compelling, but even moreso each decision left unmade and in the hands of the receiver. A tray with a teapot, teabag left in, a separate milk jug, a spoon and saucer, a biscuit and separate sugar arriving in front of you is a tremendous little taste of Christmas. And it can always be decorated with thoughtful notes, garnishes of cake, or even just neatly-angled handles. I can safely say that when presented rightly, tea has made me as happy as love has.


A girl I met at university, while we were there, created this piece of theatre, centering around the making and drinking of tea in.Britain. It was fantastic. Themes I took from it were: therapy, catharsis, feminism, housewives, facade, honesty, comfort and vulnerability. It made me laugh, cry and ponder. All that from a little cup of tea. But the thing is, that little cup of tea (because she made one for each attendee, which was lots, and laid them all out on the ground) was made just how we wanted it, with such delicacy and careful detail that it became a fascinating and rewarding experience that each of us invested in. Aside from developing a probably lifelong envy for her creative genius, (Why couldn’t I have thought of that?) I took from it a newfound interest in tea – the drink, the social aspect, the history, the geography. I suppose, “How do you take it?” is only as open a question as tea drinking deserves.

We should approach other areas of life with this attitude. “How do you take your relationships?” “How do you take your birthdays?”
I shall endeavour to ask this question of all my workmates, in order to know them better, and to gesture my interest in their little daily moments of happiness. And I think you should too. Arrr, go an.

I might add that last night my housemates and I were locked out of our house, and this question befell us from our lovely neighbour Anne, who took us in from the cold while we waited for a locksmith. And quite a lovely cup of tea and a lovely moment that was, too.