Visiting the Dominican Republic, we stayed at a new resort in a remote part of the country. Though eager to please, the staff were obviously hospitality neophytes. The most glaring shortfall came in the dining room.
A tea drinker since birth, my wife believes the hotter the water, the better cuppa it makes. If the water sears the enamel off the cup, it’s acceptable.
At our first breakfast after arrival, Frances asked for hot tea. The Spanish-speaking waiter, who knew little English, presented her with a tall glass filled with ice cubes floating in a murky brown liquid with white tendrils of cream. She graciously said she wanted hot tea, not iced tea. The waiter left and reappeared with a coffee mug with a tea bag in it and a glass of warm water .
“Oh, wonderful,” said my wife.
The next morning she took the waiter aside and explained the proper mechanics of tea preparation, stressing that the water must be boiling before being poured. And a teacup would be nice.
Lo! A teacup was unearthed and placed before her. Water that we were assured had been boiled was poured into it. With a flourish, the waiter inserted a tea bag. My wife took a sip – and grimaced. He had used an unrinsed coffee pot to boil the water. A considerate Canadian in a foreign land, my wife smiled and thanked him. After he left, she thumped her head down on the table. Twice. After breakfast, she signed up for the resort’s Spanish lessons and insisted the instructor first teach her how to order a proper cuppa.
The next day, she confidently ordered “te con leche, por favor” (“tea with milk, please”). She received a full mug of hot cream with a tea bag floating in it.
Muttering something unprintable, she rose and sought out the manager. In an unholy pastiche of English and mangled Spanish, she explained her tea tribulations. The manager listened, smiled and said: “Senora, why don’t you switch to coffee? My country produces good coffee.”
Suggesting that a lifelong tea drinker switch to coffee is like telling a wine connoisseur to drink tap water.
On our fourth morning, she whispered to me: “I just have to convince our waiter to cut down on the hot cream and add boiling water. They do have nice tea here. What little I’ve had of it.”
Her smile froze as our waiter approached. We had a different waiter today. Gamely, she ordered tea, and was met with a blank look. “I have never made hot tea before, Senora,” the waiter said. “Please, can you come to the kitchen and show it to me?” She happily followed our waiter out to demonstrate. The lesson worked – for the rest of our holiday my wife enjoyed perfect cuppa after perfect cuppa. You can thank her the next time you’re in the Dominican Republic.
By Bruce Gravel
SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — Contributed to The Globe and Mail