How Hard Can it be, When All I Want is a Cup of Tea? Chapter Three


It’s  been a while since I’ve had an early morning cuppa but if I had to choose a time and place to be reunited with my tea addiction this would be it.

Dawn is breaking.  My balcony overlooks pristine white sand cleaned by the receding blue crystal waters of high tide.    Reclining on a straw stringed lounger, stripy orange and white beach towel laid beneath me to prevent red squares imprinting upon my skin, head propped up on cushions the colour of sky, I drink my tea from a poppy red cup savouring each sip.

The sun rises, its rays shining down onto the sea through pink and gold guilded  cloud cotton puffs.  I sigh in contentment.  Hello Zanzibar – I’m back.

It took a few days to get the tea fiasco sorted out.  Our friend and owner of The Pweza Beach Bar and Restaurant, Amier, has just built his first tourist bungalow.    It’s a learning curve, so it was news to Amier when he found out that there are people who don’t like coffee and only drink tea ie me.  Therefore breakfast on the first morning was missing the tea leaf.

I always carry a supply of English Breakfast when I travel because I’ve learnt that getting a decent brew can be extremely difficult.   Despite learning the phrase ‘A cup of black tea with cold milk  – no sugar please’ in at least 20 different languages I normally end up with something completely different.  So for example, in Malaysia and Thailand I get black tea with condensed milk and half a pound of sugar (I cried off tea for a while after manfully downing a couple of cups).  In Indonesia I received rose tea (actually very nice), other countries with a hot climate tend to serve black tea as they have no facilities to store milk, just add sugar.  Some establishments only have herbal tea (mostly yuk), Earl Grey may be available (I think it tastes like soot and ashes) and others don’t serve the leaf at all.   I even ended up giving the owner of a bakery in South America a box of black tea so I could have a cup with my daily sticky bun.  So, as you can see, tea is very important to me.

To understand what followed our arrival at the bungalow here is some background.

A)    Pingwe village and beach is on one of the remoter, quieter parts of Zanzibar.   There are two small shops in the village no more than a few minutes walk from the bungalow.

B)     Shopping for most goods is done at Stone Town, A good 2 – 2.5 hours bus ride away.

C)    Electric costs have just been put up 300% and supply is subject to regular power outages.  Therefore cooking in poor areas is done by gas including boiling water.

D)   White goods are expensive for locals.

E)     Pweza Beach Bar is a small operation and Amier works hard whilst his brothers tend to supervise from the shade.  Therefore, he’s not always on hand to boil up on demand.

Morning One in Zanzibar.

Great breakfast with lashings of spiced Coffee but no tea.

“Do you have teabags” I asked

“No” but there’s coffee”

“I don’t drink coffee – it gives me bad headaches”  I explained

“Ahhh I’ll buy some tea bags for you” he disappeared.

Ten minutes later – nothing

I went to get my English Breakfast.

No tea for the rest of the day, not even hot water so we went to the resort down the road for a caffeine fix.

Morning Two          

Another good breakfast, coffee, a thermos of hot water, but no tea.

“Any teabags?” I asked

“Ahhh yes you’re a tea leaf drinker” he said and shot back into the kitchen.

15 thirsty minutes later  – nothing.

I went to get my English Tea.

Later we went to the resort down the road  for a much needed caffeine fix and  nutted out the problem.  We decided to source an electric kettle (definitely a challenge).

That night Amier came to tell us that he was off to the village store to buy tea and coffee.

“Great” I said “and we are going to buy an electric kettle for the room.  Do you know where to get one?”  “Paje maybe?” (at least 40 minutes by road in a rammed, hot,  public mini bus).

He looked confused. After several minutes of bad Swahili, Pidgin English and a lot of misunderstandings I thought we were on the same page.

“Maybe in Pajae” he said “If not maybe in Stone Town, Now I go to the shop”.

Now I swear I saw him come back with a round tin of coffee in one hand and a square box of tea bags in the other……….but

Morning Three   

Breakfast was awesome again.  The coffee and thermos came out.

“Teabags?” I asked

Amier looked at me “just a minute” he said and disappeared.  10 minutes later – nothing.  I went to get the English Breakfast.

I had consumed at least one cup when he returned.

“Here” he pronounced happily and put a box of green tea on the table (did I forget to mention that I loathe Green Tea?)

I didn’t have the heart to tell him

Mid morning we said goodbye before heading out on our quest for a kettle.  We decided to try our luck in the village of Paje a more touristy area with several shops and a Supermarket.  It was only a 40 – 60 min bus ride away depending upon number of stops, mood of driver, length of time it took to  manouver into position passengers and luggage in an attempt to win the world record for most people in a mini bus without suffocating.

Amier came to say farewell

“I just realise I buy green tea” he said with a smile.  “I not know the difference between green and back” But he still hadn’t gone back to get any!

After a hot, sticky ride into Paje we were directed to the Supermarket.  Budda must have taken pity on me and my withdrawal symptoms because there was one electric kettle on the shelves.  We tested it in the shop and it worked!  After buying cups and saucers, tea, coffee and sugar it was time to head home for a fix.  Even the cramped, sweaty  bus ripe with odour de human could not affect our light mood.

We filled it up, plugged it in, rubbed our hands in glee and waited……It didn’t work.  Various methods were used to coax it into life, a different plug/adaptor/socket, emptied and re-refilled several times, shook it up a little, verbally abuse it, even read the instructions, but the orange light stubbornly stayed off.

Amier found us on the veranda looking glumly at the kettle.

“  Ahhhh” he said “you find one”

“Yes ,but it’s broken – worked in the shop but not here.  We take back now”.

“I go to town and find if you don’t get new one” he kindly offered.

Hours later, refunded money in pocket and  no kettle we returned.

“I go now to find” Amir announced.

“You can’t’ go to Stone Town now how you get back (no minibus’s after 5.00pm)  “Go when you are in town next, it’s not a problem” we replied resigned to paying at least 3 dollars for caffine for a while longer.   After discussion he finally agreed not to go then left.

15 minutes later he came back with a brand new kettle.

“Where it you get that”  we exclaimed.

“At local shop in village (5 min walk) , I already test – it works” he proudly explained “you very happy now?”

“Yes  very very happy” .

Actually, I could have killed him but had no time as I was too busy unpacking the box.  It was a sight to make a hardened tea drinker weep.  A shiny chrome and black jug with a solid base and glowing orange light that said “I’m working”.

I opened the lid to fill up with water and it came off in my hand.

“No problem I change” Amier said

“They have another kettle?  I asked incredulously

“Of course” he said.

And they did and it worked!

Morning Four

Delicious omelette for breakfast, fresh mango, coffee, two thermos of hot water, no  tea.

I went to get my English Breakfast.



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