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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

The griping season

BY Sonny Orr Sep 12, 2019

What comes to mind when you can’t get your caffeine fix in the morning, or, for the other half of the population, right after they wake up in the afternoon? Not too much, it seems the mind unbending for its need for the quick picker-upper, the fits and spasms that are quelled with the liquid from the angry gods, the prepared tongue and nose that are instantly satisfied. Nothing else comes close… ahhhh the café aroma alone does the trick. A second cup should do… (sighing, sipping and the occasional oouwah and in peace with the world) … life is great.

Then the crash happens at work and you feel like firing a few people – only if there were a few people to fire, that is. Coffee breaks tend to end up being long lineups at the local Tim’s, with no real system, customers doing the do-si-do square dance moves to fetch the cups, lids, creams, and sugars. If I could only watch this mid-morning ritual in fast motion, with the Fort George Reel playing in the background. But the lineups are aggravating and hone my caffeine talks to barking at other customers and letting out my first gripe of the day. Then the coffee fixes all that and I’m back at work with the rest of the drones. Argh! Nearly bit someone there. Sip …aahhhh…

It’s a long way from being a tea freak to a caffeine addict, but here’s my story. Back in the day, there was only one tea and that was the Hudson Bay tea. The HBC had tea connections with the suppliers in Asia and the molasses from the Caribbean, where they still maintain a fur trade outpost. Just kidding, but they had been involved in the liquor business for hundreds of years, before being bought out by Seagram. Go figure, but I guess we win some and lose some.

But nothing beats coffee except, gasp, a quarter gallon of tea laced with Labrador leaves. Again, our people are leaning towards the past ways of living off the land, and Labrador tea is getting a lot of attention these days. If you look at the Labrador tea, a strong hardy plant that still can be harvested even in the winter months. Only the foolish would harvest during the winter, so the plant is actually tougher than the harvester, go figure!

But tea seems to be making a comeback. For a while down south, specialized tea stores offered tiny flower tea plants which grew and expanded with each dousing of boiling water. The leaf used over and over again until it finally withered into mulch. I think the caffeine level was actually higher, but with a very high ooowwwaaahh factor involved. So tea comes in second.

But the staple of all those drinks is water. We are connoisseurs of the chemical formula called H20. In fact, in the next days we will be scooping out the small pools that collect rainwater out on the bay islands and we can safely say that this is the tail end of Hurricane Dorian, as it does have a slight sub-tropical flavour to it. A mint leaf anyone?

And in the winter months the ice floes that melt in our teapots come from snow from Siberia, fresh with a little mineralization from a few active volcanoes en route. In the summer, it’s the rain from the Rockies and soot-soaked water from forest fires that give it that smoky flavour. Of course, there’s the many springs that abound our lands. All this gives tap water a run for its money.

Other drinks are just flavours, and juices are rampant with sugar. But black coffee, that is for the brave few who are strong enough to say no to sugar and milk products, which didn’t make the grade for health issues. Milk is for babies, come on! Oops, sorry, need another coffee!

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.