Coffee and Tea

This is a hell of a strange subject for a gun blog, but since I've had it in my mind for years and it won't go away, it's probably a sign I should write about it and have done with it.

One of the problems with any hunting trip is weak coffee. You encounter it everywhere: in diners, in hunting camps where the cook should know better, in ranch houses, and in vending machines along our decaying highways and byways.

If you can pour the stuff and see through it, it ain't coffee. Real coffee cannot be penetrated by normal human vision, and contains enough flavor and caffeine to enable you to drive that last 63 miles through a blizzard, or simply wake up, or stay awake, or do whatever it is you have to do. Decaf is not coffee. Decaf is urine masquerading under a different color.

There is now a cure for the weak-coffee plague. A few years ago Starbucks came up with a highly concentrated freeze-dry coffee called Via, and the stuff is not bad at all. If you get the Italian Roast you'll find it's strong enough to mix into a cup of pseudo-coffee, or plain water, and have something that will carry you along.

Then there is tea. Tea is not coffee, and will never be coffee, and if you consume it in its more artsy forms it ranks somewhere with decaf coffee. Real tea means something unfancy like Lipton, or Tetley, or Red Rose, or Earl Gray. If you hunt in what used to be the British Empire, you will encounter some very serious and worthwhile forms of tea. In Zambia, in 1981, in a camp in the Kafue, I was served some kind of black tea that would heal the sick, raise the dead, or wake you up for fair. I suspect it was locally grown, and I'd love to find out what it was.

One of the rituals of caribou hunting in Canada is the mid-day pot of tea. Your guide will haul out a smoke-blackened one-quart pot that would not pass a modern health code, fill it with ground water or dip it right from a lake, throw in a handful of teabags of undetermined origin or (rarely) a couple of fistfuls of loose tea, bring it to a boil, and serve it in a tin cup that is hot enough to cause you to have reconstructive surgery to your lip. It's good form to sweeten the tea with as much sugar as you can hold in your hand.

If you're cold and tired, a cup of Innuit tea will make you feel like you can run down a caribou and kill it with your teeth. Of course, it still ain't coffee, but it will do nicely, thank you.