Sitting in SoulFoods, Redmond WA, I expressed sadness at my near-empty cup of tea. A dear friend next to me exclaimed, "Just ask for more hot water!" As any English native would in America, I raised a slightly amused, slightly uncomprehending eyebrow.
"You can't reuse a tea bag," I motioned.
"What? You reuse them at home all the time!"
I swayed, bewildered as to where my friend had retrieved such an idea. The confusion, it turned out, was due fully to the spoon-shaped teaspoon holder that sat beside the kettle atop my kitchen counter. It was also, not by coincidence, a teaspoon holder used for stowing newly strained tea bags. My friend had thought the tea bags were placed in there because we, obviously to the visiting eye, reused the bag to make another brew - or rather, a drink more akin to dishwater. A British insult when you want to impress upon someone the inferiority of their tea making abilities.
Upon trying to explain why exactly it is that we do put our tea bags in a spoon-shaped bowl rather than into the bin (which, incidentally, is in the cupboard beneath the kettle) I turned up mute. Why do we do that, I wondered. We have always collected the used tea bags in some form of dedicated shipping dock - only, it seems, to await the fact that at some point or another, we will judge whether the pile of cold, now slightly mashed pile of brown tea bags, is ready to be thrown away.
I still don't know why we collect our tea bags. Perhaps this is where the ease of The Great American Coffee enters in.