When I arrived in Japan on my first exchange with four other students, our host families took us to a café on the way home from the airport. When the waitress went around collecting everyone’s order, I asked for water. All conversation stopped as people jumped to tell me all the different kinds of coffee I could choose from – white, black, cappuccino etc, but I’ve got what the Japanese call a ‘cat’s tongue’ which means that my mouth burns really easily and I don’t like hot drinks. When I reasserted that I wanted water, I was offered tea – Japanese green tea, Chinese tea, English tea, herbal tea… Again, I said I preferred water. All the parents looked at each other and began sympathising with my hosts who would have to feed such a fussy person.
Fast forward to 2018, and I had much the same experience when I moved in with a family in San Pedro. I was offered coffee on the first morning and refused, saying I preferred water. I was then offered tea with such enthusiasm that I accepted, but only sipped it. When asked, I told them it was nice, but I preferred water. The next day they gave me a mug of something hot and milky which was supposed to contain lots of vitamins. When I explained that my mouth burns easily, they seemed to accept it, but the next morning, my kind hostess spent a few minutes cooling my tea by pouring it from one mug to another and back.
I’m still not sure why it’s so important to them that I drink a hot drink. The only reason I could think of is that they wouldn’t have to pay for filtered water if I was drinking boiled water in a hot drink, but then they always cook in filtered water themselves and it’s not that expensive at ~A$3 for 20 litres.
Do coffee and tea drinkers really have such a hard time accepting that someone is happy with water?