Coffee or Tea as Literary Device

One of the devices I see used over and over again in novels is the cup of coffee/pot of tea. Characters need to have a chat? Let them do it over a cup of tea. Something terrible happen? Coffee or tea is so comforting. Character need a jolt? A hot cup of joe will do the trick. Someone need something to distract them? Send them to make a pot of coffee.

I wonder how much this reflects author’s own habits–do tea drinkers write characters who drink coffee? My characters hardly ever drink coffee. Ella drinks plenty of tea, as do I. Tea is my go to literary device because it’s my go to beverage in real life. I start off my work day with a cup of tea. I have a cup mid-afternoon and I almost always have one before bed. I used to drink strong, black tea with plenty of sugar. But then I had some heart issues so I gave up caffeine and then I calculated just how much sugar I was consuming and gave that up too. So it’s not the stimulants I’m after.

One of the kids at work asked me why I drink so much tea. (Don’t you love how kids can just get to the heart of a thing without even trying?) I had to think about it. Honestly, it’s kind of a marker for my day. Morning, afternoon, bedtime. The routine of boiling the water, brewing the tea and drinking something warm is a little oasis of predictability in days that can be hectic. Tea is my touchstone.

The characters in my second book drink coffee. They’re plain, country people who probably started drinking coffee as children.  But I’m realizing that although I know they drink coffee, I rarely put a cup in their hands. It’s the prejudice of the tea drinker. I’m going to have to get over that.

Cream or sugar?

3 thoughts on “Coffee or Tea as Literary Device

  1. Tea lovers of the world, UNITE!

    Ahem.

    My main POV character is a tea drinker. I have other characters who favor coffee, and one young teen who thinks he’s so grown up until it’s warm beverage time and he chooses hot chocolate. But you’ll never catch any of them downing soda or energy drinks. I will not give up my bias against those things. 🙂

  2. There is something comforting about sitting with a friend over a cup of coffee or tea. For me it would be tea. Depending on the time period I am writing about I go back and forth between the two. I write period pieces so when I picture how people visited back then I imagine a cup or tea would be about the friendliest thing a person could offer. 🙂

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