update: do I need to make coffee and tea for coworkers when I don’t drink it myself?

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer asking if they needed to make tea and coffee for coworkers when they didn’t drink it themselves? Here’s the update.

I just thought I would write in to give an update to a fairly low stakes question you answered for me about the politics of tea and coffee making at work.

As you guessed, I am in the UK and the hot drinks culture is a strange beast that I don’t fully understand as a non tea/coffee drinker. To quote one of the commenters who summed it up really well, “in Britain the culture is generally that if you get up to make a cup for yourself you’re expected to ask others if they want one too, and there’s an informal (usually) system of turn-taking.”

As many of the commenters also guessed, I realised pretty quickly that this was much less about the hot drinks than it was about power, control and an overwhelming sense of entitlement. There were two main offenders, Regina and Gretchen.

After you answered my letter, there were a few times Regina pointedly told me and another colleague to go stick the kettle on (British code for ‘go and make everyone a cuppa’). We both declined and explained we dont drink coffee. Regina then had the sheer audacity to look us straight in the eye and say “So because you don’t drink it, that means none of us get it either?” Whenever she said this I would pointedly ignore her and she would huff and puff then go and do it herself.

After this she changed tactics – on the way to work I would sometimes stop at a nearby shop to buy lunch. Whenever she saw me come in with a bag from said shop she would start lambasting me for not thinking to buy her a cake (What?!?!?) It got so ridiculous that on one occasion when I went down to the shop during the shift I specifically asked her several times if she wanted anything and she said no. When I got back from the shop she started having a go at me for not buying her something anyway.

Not to forget Gretchen, one day when I arrived, she picked up my bag) and started going through it to see if there was anything in it that she wanted for lunch. I don’t mind sharing food but Gretchen was a complete freeloader and would never bring in her own food, instead relying on mooching off others. I specifically started taking in only enough food for myself so that she couldn’t demand that I share my meals with her.

I wish I could say I stood up to them but I was really struggling with my mental health at the time and they were just so overbearing and ridiculous it was nearly impossible to argue back.

However, I did realise that when someone is being so rude and acting so far outside the social contract, I don’t have to try so hard to be so nice to them all the time — to quote another commenter, “this level of rudeness deserves blunt clarification.”

I also accepted that I don’t deserve to be treated like that and that I didn’t have to like them, or try to make them like me.

Moving forward from there, whenever I was on shift with them I would be polite but detached, and whenever they were rude and snappy at me, I would ignore them and walk away rather than immediately jumping and scrambling around to try and please them as was my tendency. This caused Gretchen to have the occasional tantrum, and accuse me of being rude by not responding even though she was the one being horrible. It helped me to remember the saying, “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.”

Thankfully I only had to spend a few months working with them before I got moved back to my original role.

Overall, this experience made me realise it was part of a larger problem within a dysfunctional organisation. This job was only ever a stop gap job for me and I am now actively searching for a job related to the subject I have a degree in. I read your column every day and thanks to all your advice I now feel much more prepared for job searching.

Thank you for answering my letter, and for being the voice of sanity amidst chaos. A huge thanks also to all the lovely commenters for their support and validation. I look forward to the day (hopefully soon) when I get a job I love in a sane, healthy working environment.

{ 257 comments… read them below }

  1. The Sparkly Dragoon Manager*

    OP, you are such a kind, classy person, and I truly, deeply admired how you handle the situation. Those two women… I have no words.

    I am glad you are out of it, and that you were able to stand up for yourself, in your own way, because you didn’t allow those two to take your food or dictate what you should do.

    Also, I am going to print the quote about idiots. I work in an environment where that will serve me well XD!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      My family always put it as:
      Arguing with idiots is like mud wrestling pigs – you both get dirty but only the pig enjoys it.

      1. Joe*

        In Polish we have a saying “Don’t play chess with the pidgeon, it will poop on the board and think it has won”

        1. Cats and Bats Rule*

          I would probably have been a lot less polite (and probably gotten fired)!

          1. Empress Ki*

            You wouldn’t have been fired for that in the UK. Maybe disciplined.But she would have been disciplined too !

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          I would have been seriously tempted to grab my bag back and stalk off.

          Then, the next time I brought in a bag it would have carefully wrapped cat poop in it. If someone asked why, I would tell them that I needed to drop it off at the vet, and what were they doing rustling in my bag anyway?

          But I’m mean like that.

          1. AnonToday*

            Which reminds me of a poop sample incident in All Creatures Great & Small (book/BBC drama about a Yorkshire vet).

        3. tangerineRose*

          How about something like “Oh, I’m sorry, that’s my purse.” and say it like you’re worried that she thinks that this is her purse.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        [Frozen] I said do you want to fight me, do you want to catch these hands [/Frozen]

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Not to mention endless whining about people not making them tea and buying them cakes!

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          It’s never about the tea and cakes, is it? They’ve reached the peaks of their careers, such as they are, I’m sure, and decided that they will be the queens of all they survey. OP should be glad to be gone before all the the other little fish prove too boring and they turn on each other.

        2. EZ Like Sunday Morning*

          Come on now, this is the UK we’re talking about, it’s whinging…

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            You are correct! I’m British, I just slip into American English when I’m tired because I lived there for a long time.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Considering the number of letters we drop from words that came immediately to us from British English* this feels like a completely valid course of action XD

              *probably not the correct term for the language at the time but…

  2. Anonariffic*

    I would bet you ten bucks (or pounds, in this case) that if you had caved and made drinks for everyone, Regina would have seamlessly switched over to berating you for steeping the tea too long/not long enough, using the wrong coffee beans, the wrong amount of milk or sugar… good job standing up to her and not giving in!

    That being said, I would have had a hard time resisting the urge to go along and then make her the World’s Worst Cuppa just to drive the point home. You mean I shouldn’t have left the teabag in for twenty minutes? Oh no, it looks like the milk has gone off! Oops, I used salt instead of sugar! You know me, I don’t drink tea so I didn’t realize any of those were issues, oh well!

    1. OP*

      Ding ding ding, we have a winner – I got sent down to the local shop for a jar of coffee and milk then got roundly lambasted for buying the wrong sort of coffee. Literally couldn’t win.

      1. High Score!*

        My first job where I was the only female in the office but we were all engineers, it was decided that I should make the coffee. So I did so. This was in the days before measured packets. Yeah, I made that coffee. It was nearly as thick as mud bc like you’re supposed to fill the entire filter with coffee, right? Then they tried to teach me how to do it but I just acted as dumb as they thought I was. LOL Finally they decided that the coffee drinkers would take turns making it! Bwahaha

        1. PeanutButter*

          I did something like that early in my working days, but, silly woman that I am, I completely neglected to put in the filter. Oopsie!

          Bonus: it was during the height of the hipster beard craze. I had like 40 minutes of blessed solitude while they all tried to get coffee grounds out of their flavor savers.

          1. Jolene*

            I’m a lawyer (and a darn good one, which a more prestigious resume but slightly less grey hair than the men at my small firm) and two of the male partners asked me within my first week if I was a good “typist” and could I take notes for the meetings? My immediate reaction was to pretend I couldn’t type at all. (I can, very well actually – I was a secretary for two years before law school). I started taking paper notepads to meetings instead of a laptop.

            That was 5 years ago. No one has asked me to take notes in a meeting in about 4 years and 11 months.

          2. froodle*

            I am actually crying with laughter at 1) that image and b) the term “flavour saver”

      2. MEH Squared*

        Unfortunately, with this type of person, you can never do anything right because their goal is to find something wrong with what you did. Congratulations, OP, for refusing to play their game. I’m glad you’re rid of them and know that you did not do anything wrong.

        You handled yourself well. Me, I would have a really hard time not cussing them out (which I know is completely unprofessional, but I would feel pushed to it.)

      3. kicking_k*

        I’m rolling my eyes.

        I’m in the UK and have worked in a selection of offices, and in only one have I regularly made drinks for others. And then I was on a team of two and we were both coffee fiends and took our breaks simultaneously. That’s not usual these days.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      This is where I would play the cis-white-male card and be creatively incompetent. You want me to make you coffee? Happy to oblige! Oh, you didn’t want it that strong? Next time I will make it weaker. Much, much, weaker. But I understand that being cis, white, and male gives me standing here.

      1. Doctor What*

        Hey Richard, I don’t know if you would be able to pretend to be helpless in this one! My friend’s dad, a British expat, “brews” the best “cuppa” on this side of the Atlantic. When I am over at her house, will wait him out, when we’re gasping…as soon as he stands up, we thank him for putting the kettle on for all of us!

        1. Rose*

          I don’t get it. Your friends dad knows how to make coffee/tea. That doesn’t mean all white cis men do, or Richard does.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I am in fact perfectly competent in both. This does not mean that I could not become massively incompetent at will.

              1. Clobberin' Time*

                Richard’s point is that creative incompetence around preparing food or drinks for everyone is something that he could get away with more easily as a cis white dude, because it’s not seen as His Job. I don’t know why this point is weirding people out. It’s not a statement that men objectively can’t make decent coffee.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My mom was asked once, and only once at her current office to make coffee. Never again – I love her dearly, but she doesn’t drink coffee, never has, and she’s just completely incapable of making a drinkable cup of coffee.

        In fairness, she did warn them that she doesn’t drink coffee or own a coffee pot. Not quite sure how she managed it but it was both really weak and totally burned.

        1. Jora Malli*

          The one and only time I’ve been tasked with making coffee at work I explained that I don’t drink coffee and don’t know how to make it. The person said “Oh, there are instructions on the coffee can. It’s not hard, you can figure it out.”

          The instructions on the coffee can said how many cups of ground coffee you should in, and I opened the coffee can to see the scooper inside, so I thought that must be the cup the instructions were referring to. Unfortunately, they meant kitchen measuring cups, so the coffee I made was essentially hot brown water that needed to be poured out immediately. I maintain that I had a valid reason to be confused. If your product comes with a scooper, that scooper should definitely be the unit of measurement referenced in the instructions about how to use your product.

          But I never had to make the coffee again!

          1. whingedrinking*

            A friend of mine has family in Wales, and while we were backpacking together she and I were invited for dinner at their farmhouse near Aberystwyth. They offered me a cup of tea, and I accepted. They asked how I would like it, and I said, “Oh, no milk, no sugar, please”, which is how both my mother and I take it (we’re Canadian, going back a few generations). I got a slightly blank look but was duly handed a cuppa that was almost literally black. Trying to be polite, I did my best to drink it but I was not having a good time.
            I later learned from a Welsh coworker that they must have thought I was a complete freak. Welsh people, especially in the countryside, apparently brew their tea in the anticipation that you’ll be filling the mug at least a quarter of the way with milk. Lesson learned.

        2. Tau*

          I made completely undrinkable coffee for a colleague by accident – didn’t know how much instant coffee to use and completely overdid it. (In Britain, participating in a healthy office tea round and not the dysfunctional nonsense OP describes.) The shame is real.

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          We had a neighbor who was an excellent cook but didn’t drink coffee. My parents were avid coffee drinkers, but not at her house.

        4. Rose*

          I was going to suggest busy being horrilbe at it. :)

          And my first job I was 21 and had never drank coffee. My boss brought the her own Starbucks (iced) but most people drank the office coffee. She told me as the lowest rung in the latter it was going to be my job to make it. She then commented that the last girl had been a total idiot and hadn’t even known how to make coffee, but “I assume you’re more competent than that.” I was so young I just stood their frozen. Was I supposed to just say “yep I’m an idiot?” How does not knowing how to make something you never consume make you stupid? It wasn’t an office job and I had no way to google it.

          There were no directions anywhere so I just sort of approximated but I had seen my mom do in the morning as a kid. I overheard coworkers frequently complaining that the coffee was absolutely disgusting, but it wasn’t really officially part of my job so no one complained to me. And my boss had no idea because she brought her own coffee.

          Pretty soon people just started offering to do it for me. I never confessed because my boss had clearly decided this would’ve made me an idiot. I used to find this whole story highly embarrassing and mildly shameful. Now looking back I think my boss was the idiot. Who talks to a new person that way, or judges someone for not drinking coffee?

      3. Antilles*

        This would be viable if you’re dealing with a reasonable person; you make it wrong once, repeat that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s that. In fact, if you’re dealing with a reasonable person, it would have stopped right when OP said “I don’t drink coffee”; no need to even badly attempt it.

        But for an unreasonable person like Regina, there’s no (legal) level of creative incompetence that would get you out of it. If anything, your acquiescence on making the coffee would turn it into a crusade for her to teach you how to brew coffee and just make it even more of a pain in the neck to deal with.

      1. I take tea*

        @whingedrinking That happened to me while travelling in India. I dislike milk in tea and would always ask for it black. It’s the only time I’ve really appriciated tea bags (I’m a bit of a tea snob), because I could remove for out of five bags from the pot and get drinkable tea…

      2. Lemonlime*

        @Rose. Oh I feel you on the ‘being young and too afraid to say anything so instead winging it’. When I was a teenager I worked at a car dealership and had to gas up the newly bought vehicles. I didn’t know how to drive a stick, but having heard how lambasted and mocked any tech had been before who admitted to not know how to drive a stick, when it came my turn one day to drive a stick I just…did? I mean I stalled at every stop sign and had a terrible time getting it out of the gas station but I did it!
        On the down side– I should have been able to say. “Oh I don’t know how to drive these.” without the fear of humiliation from my boss. On the up side, I learned to drive stick eventually.

    3. DevilsBrew*

      This! I made the World’s Worst Coffee for my boss for about 2 weeks. I didn’t drink coffee and it wasn’t part of my job to make coffee but he’d always expect coffee. (Strangely he also never asked any of his male employees to make coffee.) After a couple of weeks of his spoon nearly dissolving–despite him patiently instructing me how to make coffee correctly–he stopped asking me. As an aside, I also got out of his incessant sports talk by feigning supreme ignorance. Him: “Did you see the Chargers win the Superbowl!” Me, barely looking up from my computer “Um…that’s baseball, right?”

  3. bubbleon*

    If it had been by itself I feel like the original letter should’ve gotten a “Wait, what?” tag. Not British but lived there long enough to get a grasp of the tea culture, and I could never imagine telling someone to make you a cup if they weren’t going to be making one themselves. At most I might ask someone across the room to turn the kettle on if they were standing in front of it, but not to make me a drink! The cake thing is just another level of “Wait, what?”-ness.

    OP, glad you haven’t been dragged down to their perpetually angry level, and best of luck with the new job search!

    1. workswitholdstuff*

      Yes, if someone was getting up to fill a water bottle or something and was nearby the kettle as a result, and I was going to be heading to make a brew soon, I might ask them to see if the kettle was full and flick it on, so I didn’t have to wait quite so long.

      But expect someone to get up and make me one when they don’t drink? Completely and utterly out of order.

      And the rummaging in the bag? Worlds fail me!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Oh I’ve done this too – sure I can hit the on switch for you if I’m near/passing by. That’s not unreasonable.

        But those two – yeah, they’re not even on the same continent as reasonable.

    2. Just Me*

      Not British and I know next-to-nothing about the office tea culture, so I googled it and read about how offices used to have tea ladies who would come around with a trolley of tea and snacks. Is…is that what the coworkers are saying they think of OP? That she is quite literally the tea lady? I feel like OP could have a lot of breezy, “Nope, sorry, can’t bring you tea when I’m not in my apron” quips, but maybe I’m wrong.

      1. Tau*

        Nah, modern-day UK tea culture is that when you get up to make yourself a cup of tea, you offer to also make one for your team/the people around you and they do the same for you. The issue being that a) you don’t demand other people make you tea, you either wait for them to offer or (if you’re thirsty) offer yourself, b) non-tea-drinkers are exempt from the rota. (My second UK workplace we didn’t have enough tea drinkers and this didn’t happen; I kind of missed it, because it was a nice thing to do for each other and a good excuse to take a few minutes away from work. First workplace had a legit spreadsheet with tea preferences and mug description hanging in the kitchen – HR gave you a form to fill out on your first day.)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          There’s lovely long discussion of this in the comments on the original letter.

          I was surprisingly old before I realised this was a particularly British phenomenon…

          1. Tau*

            I am not actually British and even though I’d lived in the UK for a while at this point I still looked at the tea preferences section of the new employee intake form going “…this is the most British thing I’ve ever seen in my life”. But honestly, I kind of miss tea rounds now that I’m back in Germany. They were an easy way to do something nice for your coworkers!

            1. Batgirl*

              A tea preferences form! Not even I am that British and I can’t go half an hour without tea.

        2. Pomegranate*

          Thanks for explaining about the spreadsheet! I was wondering if you were meant to remember sugar/milk preferences for everyone on your team.

          1. Teapot Wrangler*

            In most offices, yep, you are. My current office doesn’t do tea rounds (weird, I know) but I’m pretty forgetful so I generally write down a list of the 5/6 preferences for people (both tea and coffee because a lot of people switch). You’re fine to ask for a reminder though if you forget someone’s preference – especially if they usually have tea and swap to coffee or vice versa

        3. Emma*

          I had a manager once who had a custom printed mug with his name and tea order on it. I loved it, so much easier than trying to remember.

          (There was also a list over the sink because it was a big team with different people in the office every day)

        4. Jora Malli*

          I absolutely adore that your tea preferences and a description of your office mug is part of the onboarding paperwork. That’s one of the most wholesome things I’ve seen all day.

        5. Sasha*

          This – it’s like offering round a biscuit if you open a packet yourself, or picking up a pack of mini rolls to share out while you are out buying lunch. It’s about not eating and drinking by yourself while other people go without.

        6. Bridget the Elephant*

          I’ve just started a new job, and there’s a literal chart in the break room for exact colouration of tea from black to basically milk, and a list underneath of everyone’s preferences.

      2. Pennyworth*

        I think tea ladies are all long gone. An Australian friend told me that getting rid of them probably cost more money than it saved, because everyone went from taking a ten minute break to gather round the tea lady to heading out of the office to buy coffee and a snack, which took much longer.

        1. Batgirl*

          We have tea ladies for staff at my school who bring tea to classrooms or the areas outside classrooms as people walk in. We brought them in during Covid to prevent people sharing the tea making facilities (every hand in the building would have used the same boiler tap) and we’ve kept them because it’s unusually well suited to teaching. In an office you can stop working whenever and offer drinks, but sometimes you’re teaching every period and can’t get a drink made or handed to you by a colleague.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I had a boss raise the fact that I never made her a cup of tea while I was having one. I pointed out that I don’t drink tea and offered to get her a glass of water. She was a bit flummoxed. People get weird about tea here.

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “oh, so I guess nobody gets tea, then?” is making my blood boil. There was another like this recently. OP was asked to do something that was not in his/her scope of actions for that moment…anyone remember? Like, some food nut job who wanted to eat OP’s food or something…and got told, “oh, I guess nobody gets to eat today!” Yeah, they do. Cuz they brought/bought food.
      Like when Sheldon Cooper told Penny that the Big Bang guys were going to miss Stan Lee because they had to go traffic court. “Now nobody gets to see Stan Lee at the comic book store.”

      1. Leenie*

        I honestly loved that anecdote from the letter. Sure Regina was awful. But the idea of Regina trying to throw her weight around, and the LW just ignoring her until Regina had to slink off and get her own tea is hilarious. I love a failed power grab.

      2. Middle Aged Lady*

        The correct response back home to such a ridiculous request is “Your legs broke?”
        In the UK, y’all are so much more polite.

        1. Jan*

          I’m a generally polite British person and even I would have said “What did your last slave die of? Get your own!”

        2. Batgirl*

          This is a thing said in Britain, and a really reasonable response to being told out of the blue to put the kettle on.

    5. Ed123*

      When I worked in the UK in our shared break room it was that one perosn turns on the kettle but everyone makes their own tea. You can ask someone to turn on the kettle but nobody would ask anyone to actually make a cuppa (obviously there are special occasions).
      My bf is British and we have an ongoing teafight. I prefere making our own drinks when we want it or maybe turning on the kettle or coffee maker but we both do own cups and he finds that concept terrible.

    6. whingedrinking*

      I think the thing that blew me away most was, “So because you don’t drink it, we don’t get any either?”
      I have been struggling for a good ten minutes to find a non-snarky way to say, “I didn’t realize the presence of a non-tea drinker made you incapable of getting up and making your own.”

  4. Goldenrod*

    Your co-workers’ behavior was totally outrageous! It’s funny how sometimes the most freaky human behavior happens in offices….But I like how you handled it! Knowing that they don’t have to like you and you don’t have to like them is half the battle.

    Also – as Alison has noted many times – even otherwise normal human adults tend to get VERY WEIRD about food in offices. I’ve seen professors lose their minds over not getting a free cookie – I always wanted to say, “Hey, you’re a tenured professor – you can BUY yourself a cookie.”

    But honestly, there is no getting through to this particular kind of crazy. I think it’s really deeply hardwired into people and nothing can penetrate the lizard brain. Glad you got away!!

    1. zaracat*

      Yes to the weird about food thing. At one place I work, there was an infamous episode where several orthopaedic surgeons on million dollar incomes threw a tantrum about missing out on the sausage rolls at morning tea.

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    An office full of bees. Wearing top hats and monocles, and driving on the left side of the hive.

  6. Chickaletta*

    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.”

    Great quote. I have definitely fallen into this trap before.

    1. KarenK*

      The actual quote is, I believe, “Don’t wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I think these are just two entirely different quotes about admittedly similar phenomena. The other one, which I often need reminders of on twitter, is “Never play chess with a pigeon. They’ll just (mess) on the board then strut about like they won anyway.”

        1. Sasha*

          Or from a recent celebrity court case:

          Arguing with Coleen Rooney would be like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong, but it’s still going to s*** in your hair.

  7. OP*

    I’d also like to say a huge thank you to everyone on the original post and this one for all the lovely comments, it really helped me to have so many people being so affirming and supportive. I really struggled with my self esteem when I worked there due to the mean girls making me feel like nothing I ever did was good enough. But I have recently met some people who started working there after I left and they told me other colleagues I had worked with there spoke very highly of me and held me in high esteem. This was really uplifting too and has given me more confidence in my work.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I know I sound like your old gray haired granny, but they were jealous. Not specifically of you, but of your future. They new that place was a stop gap in your career and your life. They know they are stuck there (combination of education/economics/personality). So they were actively pulling you back into the crab bucket because all they have is the space in that office.
      Let them rock on with their bad selves. The Queen of tea and Princess of mincess. I’m betting Alison gets a letter in 10 years from some other target who stepped into the position you left, who was told they’ve been like that for over a decade…

    2. Butter Bonanza*

      I’ll bet when the meanies said “she never made tea for anyone! Not even for HERSELF!” they were met with blank, silent stares.

      1. Observer*

        Indeed. Because that’s honestly one of the weirdest things I’ve seen on this site.

    3. Batgirl*

      I’m not surprised! You behaved very graciously, mixing generosity with strong boundaries. You say you didn’t stand up for yourself, but you did! You stood firm within yourself and kept hold of the knowledge that their behavior was not reasonable. It was never required that you externally voice this to them; you’re not their parent, teacher, therapist or life coach and if they haven’t got any interest in the forms of polite behavior why is it your job to help them?

  8. TK*

    This has nothing to do with the content of the letter, but I’m amused by “go stick the kettle on (British code for ‘go and make everyone a cuppa’).” Because the word “cuppa” itself is British slang for a cup of tea… I don’t think anyone uses that outside of the UK. Which OP may know, but it’s amusing nonetheless.

    1. Mary Jane*

      I thought OP was referring to the idea that she was asked for a relatively small favour (put the kettle on) but it was code for a much larger imposition (assemble several cups of tea according to various preferences and then deliver them to the recipients).

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I agree.

        In most households, “are you getting up?” (either a.m. from bed, or p.m. from the sofa) means “immediately go to the kitchen, boil a full kettle, and prepare hot drinks for everyone – including the friends and neighbours who will pop round when they hear it bubbling”.

      2. Emma*

        Sort of, but not in a “they’re minimising it on purpose” way – it’s universally understood in the UK that “stick the kettle on” does mean to make hot drinks for everyone. It’s not like saying “can you do me a quick favour?” and then unexpectedly asking for something that takes an hour; if someone asks you to put the kettle on, you know what you’re signing up for. I think OP was just providing that context for non-UK audiences.

        1. kicking_k*

          Absolutely! It’s not asking for an inch and expecting a mile. But I wouldn’t ask a non-tea-drinker to do it.

        2. The OG Sleepless*

          See, my American self would totally just walk in and turn the electric kettle on. And feel pretty smug that I even knew how to operate it, since they’re not common here. We have one because there was one at our AirBNB in London and we thought it was cool.

          1. Vio*

            it’s the little differences like this that can be so fascinating. over here (UK) electric kettles have been popular since at least the 90s and hardly anybody has the old fashioned on-the-hob kettles. only in the last decade have home coffee machines become really popular, most households would go with instant coffee and many still do although filter coffee and pods are increasingly popular
            I have seen some funny electric kettles designed to look just like the old hob style ones though and with their base made to look like a gas hob (but without the fire of course)

            1. allathian*

              My family lived in the UK when I was 12-13, and it seemed to me that everyone we visited had an electric kettle. One of the first things my parents bought when we got there was an electric kettle.

              1. London Lass*

                I would be astonished to see a British kitchen without one. It’s just what you do. And not only for drinks either – I use mine to pre-heat water for cooking too, e.g. for pasta.

                1. Miette*

                  My British friends are eternally amused by my stovetop kettle when they visit, like it’s a quirk of mine lol.

              2. MsSolo UK*

                I think it’s something like 97% of households have one. You’re more likely to lack a working hob (because if you can’t afford to fix it/ your landlord is breaking the law you can go a long time cooking basic carbs with just a kettle and patience)

            2. HotChocolateRun*

              I just use the microwave to heat up water. 1min, 30s is a perfect temp for hot chocolate!

          2. Libellulebelle*

            I’m American, but have been a tea-drinker since spending the summer in the UK one year as a teen. And you can pry my electric kettle from my cold, dead hands.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              American here – but started out down in hurricane country. I have both standard and electric kettles. The habits of 26 years dealing with the need to cook even when the storm has knocked out the power are strong.

              I’m also just about the only house in my neighborhood with a standby generator. It came in handy three weeks back when the power was out for a day, as the food in my fridge didn’t go bad.

              1. Clisby*

                I live in hurricane country, too. Amazingly, we have not lost power during a hurricane in the 17 years we’ve lived in Charleston, SC, but your luck can run out. We have a gas stove so unless both electricity and gas both went out, we still could use the cooktop. This has made me, think, though, that maybe I should look for a battery-powered electric kettle just in case.

    2. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

      The term “a cuppa” is definitely used (VERY much so) in the Antipodes. :)

  9. Abogado Avocado*

    OP, you have given us all a master class in how to deal with two people who lack human decency. May your job search result in many offers!

    1. anonymous73*

      Not really. People like these women need to be put in their place firmly or they will continue their behavior. Ignoring them is not the ultimate solution until after you’ve stood your ground.

      1. Zephy*

        Listen, if you’ve got whole entire grown-assed adults behaving like this toward you, that you did not personally birth or legally adopt, it is 110% not your job to teach them how to act in public. Taking steps to disengage and ensure their bullshit rolls off of you is the extent of your responsibility here.

        1. Flash Packet*


          And, frequently, ignoring them *is* putting them firmly in their place. Lots of toxic people live off of getting reactions out of others, and simply acting as if the toxic people don’t exist is akin to torturing them.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            They thrive off of drama and reactions. Denying them reactions is like denying them air, and drives them nuts. And ignoring them is the best way to remove that reaction.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I think in a situation like this, it’s valid for there to be two courses of option based on how much emotional bandwidth you have available: engage and stand your ground, or disengage and go about your day. Regina and Gretchen sound like absolute energy sucks and unless you are actively willing and able to expend that amount of emotional energy to try to teach unreasonable adults to be reasonable, disengaging works.

        1. Alternative Person*

          Agreed. I opted out of most of the BS at my previous job because the main agitators were never going to learn, especially not from me. They did not know how to cope and eventually gave up, except for isolated outbursts. There were a couple of things I did stand my ground on and honestly those isolated incidents were enough to sap my energy for days after the fact. I would have driven myself to a breakdown if consistently engaged.

      3. Lenora Rose*

        Unless they personally CHOOSE to do so for their own reasons, it is NOT any coworker’s place to have to be the one to stop them from future victimizing.

  10. Popinki(she/her)*

    When I got to the part about Regina and the cake, I had a vision of the OP walking in with a tall, elaborate layer cake with FOR REGINA written on it. Then SPLAT right in her face.

    Probably illegal and a waste of a perfectly good cake, but fun to daydream about.

    1. Essess*

      What would NOT be illegal would be to walk in with said cake, then drop it straight on the ground when she saw it and still get the point across :-D

  11. Egmont Apostrophe*

    When I announced I was leaving, I would have said “Stop by for a cup of tea sometime!”

  12. seabird*

    Thank you so much for the update! That’s quite sensational behaviour from Gretchen and Regina. I would add, as a British person and a tea drinker, I have never in my life heard of someone asking a person to make them tea when they know the person doesn’t drink it, and therefore can’t join in the reciprocal tea-making-merrygoround throughout the day. That’s just a mad power play; not so much to do with tea as with wanting to assert dominance.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, the line about nobody getting to drink tea unless OP made it (so others to enjoy but not herself) was especially outrageous. They were treating OP like a servant.

    2. Sasha*

      I mean, as a British person, asking somebody else to make you tea is shockingly cheeky even if they do drink it themselves! You wait to be asked.

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        Although you can just about get away with it if a) you already have a good relationship, and b) you start off your request with “can I be really cheeky…” ;)

    3. misspiggy*

      I’ve done several jobs where people were so bored they used the office tea situation to create drama and boost their status. Not quite as extreme as these ladies, but it seems to be a fairly common happening.

      1. froodle*

        Same. I permanently opted out of the tea round in my office because one specific person turned it into An Entire Production. It was very apparent that this person had nothing else going on in their life, to the point where I might have pitied them if they were less of a loudmouth’d dipshit.

  13. cardigarden*

    Holy hats if someone at work rooted through my bag in front of me to eat my food, I’d have lost my damn mind.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. I’d have snatched it back with a pointed “That’s mine. Go get your own.”

  14. STG*

    You were much more level about this than I would be. Once they got rude, I’m afraid my snarkiness would have come out. I’ve found that folks that push outrageous boundaries like this have to learn that you don’t play those games or they’ll continue to push.

    1. OP*

      Yeah I wish I had started pushing back against them but I’m very quiet with a very long fuse so I tend to ignore people who are annoying me rather than push back against them. Although with Gretchen there was one day she pushed me over the edge and I told her well and truly where to go. I wish I could have got a still shot of the look on her face to frame it on my wall!

      1. OhBehave*

        You may have been the only person to refuse their demands! Good job. Hopefully, you paved the way for future non-brewers.

  15. EmmaPoet*

    In a culture where Regina and Gretchen were continually demanding the OP make their tea and coffee for them when she drinks neither, and they both pivoted to tantrums about other things, and Gretchen is a blatant mooch who thinks it’s OK to rifle through other people’s lunch bags, and management seems to be ignoring the whole thing, getting out is the right move. I wish you luck and a future in a healthy and prosperous new job somewhere else!

    1. anonymous73*

      Do we know that management was ignoring it? If they didn’t witness it and OP didn’t say anything about it, we can’t make that assumption.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – I’m going to bet that Gretchen and Regina probably knew better than to tantrum in front of the boss.

  16. A Pound of Obscure*

    Were they raised by wolves? After maybe the third time they expected me to make tea, and definitely the first time one of them went through my bag to steal food, I would have yelled, “What the hell is your PROBLEM?!” That is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.

    1. JustaTech*

      Squirrels or crows. Cheeky, just sneak over and snatch whatever they want and scram.

      Why anyone would assume that they would want my food is a separate question. If I had a serial food moocher in my office I’d be sure to bring in more liverwurst sandwiches.

  17. Jean*

    “Regina then had the sheer audacity to look us straight in the eye and say “’So because you don’t drink it, that means none of us get it either?’”


    1. Jora Malli*


      OP’s lack of tea drinking didn’t make all the tea in the office disappear. People who want it can have it and people who don’t want it don’t have to make it, Regina.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I’m pretty sure Regina was walking around on bloody stumps, and couldn’t have possibly made her own dang tea.

  18. anonymous73*

    I’m glad you’re in a better place, but I hope that if you ever encounter another person who pushes boundaries, that you stand up for yourself first, then ignore. Boundary pushers need to be put in their place and know that they can’t get away with their poor behavior and the only way that happens is when you push back.

    1. Batgirl*

      They might need to be put in their place! They may need to be taught better! It’s not necessarily on OP to do that. They can pay for professional help if they need that, or get friends who care enough to dedicate some energy to the project.

  19. SelinaKyle*

    Your right this was a much bigger issues than hot drinks. Sounds like they both need to grow up, at some point they’ll come up against someone who will bring them down a peg or two. You handled it better than I would have, not sure I could have stayed as calm.
    I’m UK based and don’t like tea or coffee, I’ve never joined in the Rota’s and if anyone said anything I pointed out you wouldn’t want to drink mine as I don’t make a good cuppa. Occasionally I made a round to prove a point and was never asked again, even though I didn’t try and make a bad round.

    1. OhBehave*

      I would have lost my cool the first time they demanded! I cannot abide such rudeness.

  20. Sharpiee*

    “No I don’t want anything”
    “Why didn’t you get me anything?”

    If she’s a mooch, she was definitely trying to get you to pay. If she asked for something, she has to cough up the money. If you just bring her something, well it’s a gift and she gets it for free. Her failed attempt at being sneaky.

  21. Aggresuko*

    As a person who doesn’t drink that stuff, you WANT me to make it?! It won’t be a good cuppa if you let the noob who doesn’t drink it do it….

    What morons.

    1. quill*

      Even tea drinkers are not necessarily great at making it… My mom has always drank green iced tea and it was a struggle to 1) stop her from brewing it by stuffing it in a large jar on the porch, because ew (food safety and the 80’s didn’t get along, apparently) 2) stop her from buying lipton 3) stop her from boiling the heck out of the green tea.

      When I make it it’s always “oh, this is so good!” and yet. If her water is not visibly boiling when she puts the tea bags in she thinks it isn’t brewing properly…

      1. DuskPunkZebra*

        Sun tea is perfectly safe, as a note, and probably one of the best ways to brew it if her alternative is WAY too hot. But yeah, I think lack of knowledge contributes to a lot of bad tea and coffee and lots of people believing they don’t like them.

        I’m a bit of a brewed drinks nerd, so I’m always delighted at new info or gadgets for tea and coffee. It’s so hot right now, I’m contemplating trying ice brewing sun tea. I haven’t tried it yet and it’s supposed to come out delightfully sweet with less tannin. *eyes kitchen*

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I don’t know what quill’s mom does for her sun tea, but a neighbor would just put out a lidless jar for 24 hours, remove the tea bags the next day, and keep it on the porch to drink at her leisure.

          We live in a floodplain.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            If I put a lidless jar of sun tea on my porch I’d end up with a jar of thoroughly brewed ants.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Given that our other neighbors are mosquitoes, I was never brave enough to look closely enough to check for ants. My imagination filled in for me.

          2. DuskPunkZebra*

            Lidless is the questionable part. I grew up with the jars with spigots at the bottom and we’d hang the bags by their strings with the jar lid.

            Those spigots are actually the most dangerous part of Sun tea because people rarely clean them sufficiently, so stuff grows. Use a mason jar with a lid and you’re golden.

      2. Blinded By the Gaslight*

        I’ve never understood the disdain for Lipton. It’s been my preferred brand for making sun tea for over 40 years. More for me, I guess! :-)

        1. Obscure*

          Part of the problem is that it is the ‘main’ brand in continental Europe and is typically served by giving you a mug of hot water a tea bag, and some UHT milk, which gives you something that almost but not quite tastes like tea.

          Black tea should be made with fresh boiling water, and fresh milk to taste.

        2. quill*

          I mean I greatly prefer it to Salada (the even less fancy than lipton version) but I strongly prefer teas that taste like distinct flavors, tea being one of several acceptable ones. And I’m already not big on black tea.

      3. Batgirl*

        Is this actually a thing; people make tea using the heat from the sun? I might have to reconsider microwave tea as the worst idea ever.

        1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Don’t knock it ’til you try it! It’s quite common.

        2. Retired (but not really)*

          Sun tea makes great iced tea! We used one of the big clear gallon jars with the spigot and set it out on the back porch in a sunny spot with three or four of the family sized tea bags. And if you wanted sweet tea, dissolved the sugar in hot water first. I’m a weirdo and like unsweetened tea. My brother in law on the other hand uses 1-1/2 to 2 cups of sugar per pitcher of tea.
          Cold brew tea in a pitcher in the fridge works too but we don’t like it as well.

        3. DuskPunkZebra*

          Heat and light, yeah. And it’s really great for iced tea for the same reason that cold brewing coffee works so well: the lower temperature doesn’t extract the more bitter or tannic compounds in the leaves/beans and so the end product is sweeter, less bitter, and pulls many of the more fragile flavors out.

          It’s also a great way not to burn more delicate teas, which many people do, brewing everything just off the boil (or billy tea, which is brewed WHILE boiling – I hate it, it’s so overextracted). Especially green, white, and herbal teas.

        4. quill*

          Nothing wrong with microwaving the water for tea.

          (On this one subject I am fine to let my american show through.)

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      When I was a grad student, I often arrived on campus about half an hour before the other students did. One day I thought I’d do them a favor and make some coffee so it was ready when they arrived, and the next day one of my classmates pulled me aside and said, “please never do that again. I’ve been awake since yesterday.” Exaggerating, probably, but a request I was more than happy to comply with.

  22. Shirley Keeldar*

    OP, you say that you wish you had stood up to them, but you did! You stood up for yourself beautifully, professionally, with calmness and power. Much applause! Very impressed.

  23. Enginarian (Canada)*

    Glad this was updated because now I can make my comment on the original post and Alison’s comment.

    “and your British spelling, which I standardized for publication”

    No, it was Americanised for publication. Just because it is from the USofA does not make it standard :)

    1. Delphinium*

      I assume Alison meant standardized with the other posts on this site, not that American English is standard across all sites.

        1. Sasha*

          There is definitely a subtext of “I fixed your wrong spellings for you” Alison, intentional or not.

          Maybe standardised wasn’t quite the best word to use in this context. It’s likely to irritate people to imply British, Australian and Canadian spellings are sub-standard in some way.

          1. Nancy*


            It’s standard practice to have a house style guide and ensure spellings and punctuation are consistent. If you write a letter to the editor to an American paper, they will Americanize your spellings because everything within the publication needs to be consistent. It’s about consistency, not one being better than the other. Every single publication of any quality does this.

            Source: am long-time editor here and overseas

          2. Editor*

            You’re wrong. It is bog standard across the globe to edit to adhere to a single style guide.

          3. A.N. O'Nyme*

            No there isn’t. She has a site style guide – which is a standard . One of many possible standards. A British or Canadian publication would also “standardise” Alison’s work to their own standard if she decided to submit articles to them for publication.

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            It’s perfectly normal to edit letters for publication. Sometimes the OP might have written a long spiel and Alison might edit out some unimportant details. Just as sometimes she’ll write back for clarification and get more info. And she’ll have a style guide to standardise style, this is what all professional editors do. It means the site has a sleeker, more professional look.
            Like housework, it’s the kind of work that you don’t notice, unless it’s done badly. It’s been proven that people are less likely to take a site seriously once they’ve seen an average of five spelling mistakes (only takes two for me). Since Americans are often unaware that anyone spells anything differently to them, it’s better for an American writer to keep everything in US English.

            My only comment would be that using a US spell check erases OP’s Britishness, and when the person’s nationality is of importance (and what could be more important for British people than tea-making!!!), it then means Alison has to spell out that “actually it was in British English so OP is probably British or working in Britain”. I suppose it might have been necessary even if she left the British English spelling.

            I remember reading a letter where the OP made a nasty racist comment and somebody commented that it could have been edited out, and people were replying that no, it’s a point to factor in to your response. You’ll have less sympathy when the person writing in calls their boss by a racist or sexist slur.

    2. Batgirl*

      British (former) journalist here. You’ve fundamentally misunderstood what standardised means. I would have standardised American spellings into British for my publication. Alison’s publications would obviously have American spellings as standard.

  24. CatPerson*

    “Regina then had the sheer audacity to look us straight in the eye and say “So because you don’t drink it, that means none of us get it either?” ”

    I think this would be when I just laugh out loud, shaking my head. What jerks!

  25. monogodo*

    I also don’t drink coffee or tea. Years ago I was a trainer for a printing company, and we had a Training Center. When they moved me to the morning shift, one of the other trainers mentioned that I should be sure to brew a pot of coffee every morning when I got there. I responded with, “I don’t drink it, why should I make it?”

    He responded with, “You have 16 potential coffee drinkers arriving tomorrow morning, it would be a nice thing to do for them.”

    So the next day I figured I’d make it bad, then feign ignorance when they asked who made it (“Who made this?” “I did, isn’t it great!”). Because I don’t drink coffee, I didn’t realize that making it stronger would be better. It became my responsibility after that.

    On the bright side, while I dislike the taste of coffee, I love the smell of coffee brewing.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Staying with Mom one time, she commented that I make my coffee “so strong [she] had trouble drinking it”. So I added some hot water to hers and all was good.

      You can always weaken overstrong coffee, but there’s nothing that can be done for weak coffee except dump it.

      1. allathian*

        Please tell that to my MIL and SIL. When I’m visiting them, I usually either drink tea, or because I normally drink my coffee with skimmed milk, it’s not quite so bad if I drink it black. When they visit us, I put a carafe of water on the table so they can dilute it to their taste.

      2. Clisby*

        Yeah, we finally got rid of our Keurig because it just could not make strong enough coffee. I even bought the reusable K-cups and filled them with Cafe Bustelo espresso blend, and it was weak.

    2. Skytext*

      Monogodo, I don’t understand: you were the trainer and the coffee was intended for your students? So you were the “host” and they were the “guests”? Then yes, it WAS part of your job to make the coffee and have it ready for them. Even if you don’t drink it. If you don’t know how, then learn. Unless you mean there were other trainers there that used the same coffeemaker and they were just trying to bully you into doing it as the newbie.

  26. Emily*

    I’m in Scotland and yes, if I go to make a cup of tea then it’s right to offer my colleagues one too. I’d like to think we’re a bit more frank in Glasgow about asking for a hot drink rather than hinting – those two ladies are a piece of work!

    And I recognise the LW saying that her colleague didn’t want anything then getting annoyed when she didn’t get it. That’s soooooo British. I have an American friend who offered a Brit pal a takeaway meal (they were both teachers in Japan, hence both out of their cultural comfort zones). When the Brit said no, the friend took her at her word and didn’t offer again. The British woman couldn’t believe my American friend didn’t ask her AGAIN if she wanted anything.

    We’re exhausting!

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      There’s parts of the US where that applies also. But you have to know that you’re in the place where something is offered 3 times, and declined the first two times. (Me, I would completely fail that test, because I very much take things at face value. It took me ages to learn that sometimes people are hinting to me, not just casually commenting about something.)

      1. Grilledcheeser*

        Yup, welcome to Minnesota!
        “Stop by after church service for coffeecake”
        Oh no, I don’t want to impose.
        “We’d love to have you for coffeecake!”
        I couldn’t take up your time like that!
        “You must come and chat a while!”
        Oh, ok then! I will!

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Oh my god, I now realize that that’s why my relatives in Pakistan act like this too.

        “Have this yummy food.”
        “Oh no, I can’t, I’m full.”
        “Have some”
        “No, I’m not hungry”
        “Have some”
        “Ok sure!”

        This is amazing lol

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Got it. My spouse is Secretly British! We have done the “Do you want anything?” “No” “Where’s mine?” dance more than once.

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        We do the “no-I-don’t-want-one-but-I-intend-to-eat-half-of-yours” dance a lot.
        No, you can’t have a bite! I asked did you want one of your own, and you said no!

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I think the “no” there means “please don’t go to any trouble just to please me”. Or maybe they’re trying to resist because they need to lose weight. Or to “be polite” as my mother would say.
        But then when they see your fabulous donut they want want want it.

    3. Beebee*

      My whole family is Irish/Scotish/British and they do this and it drives me crazy haha. My mom will ask me if I want something like 10 times and now I also feel that internalized need to offer something to someone two or three times before I’m sure they’re saying no. I didn’t know it was a cultural thing (we’ve all been in Canada for a couple generations now)!

      1. TechWriter*

        I have to play this game with my in-laws AND my own parents (all multi-generation Canadian of British ancestry) and I HATE IT. If I took them at their word the first time, they would eat nothing but a piece of toast and coffee until dinner while we enjoyed our three square meals. Instead I just go about making lunch. Lo and behold! Once it’s on the table, they’re more than happy to eat! (While saying “Oh I don’t really need this, oh we never have bacon at home, oh I know I shouldn’t, but it’s good!”)

        When we visit my in-laws I have just resigned myself to refusing over and over and over again when my MIL bustles around offering seconds, thirds, fourths, oh do you want a banana? I can make some more eggs. I’ll just cut up another tomato. What about some toast? We have yogurt too! (NOOOoooo I meant it the first time, sit down and eat your own dang breakfast!)

    4. Batgirl*

      I think the letter writer’s colleague is less guess culture and more of a mad games master creating unwinnable situations. My clue is that guess culture people are usually polite to a fault.

    5. Lemons*

      Not universally a Brit thing. It’s alien to me and I loathe any form of guess/hint dance. I will ask directly and want to give/receive direct answers. I can’t perform the moves, and when I infer that you’re trying it on me I won’t go along with it… but overwhelmingly I don’t notice, because I can’t do it.
      Could be class-correlated or strongly regional of course, just like damn near everything else.

  27. Laura Petrie*

    Every office I’ve ever worked in doesn’t expect non-brew drinkers to brew up for others. In smaller teams, someone will stand up, say they’re putting the kettle on, then ask who wants one. In bigger teams I’ve worked in, it tends to be just the people sitting nearby. After a while you tend to remember what people have. It baffles me that they expected OP to make them a hot drink if OP doesn’t participate in the brew round. They sound like awful people.

    The best team I worked with, we had an office to ourselves with a fridge and kettle. We had a shelf full of different teas and a treat table for crisps and biscuits. It was glorious and I’ve never had anything like it since.

    1. DuskPunkZebra*

      Talking about remembering people’s drinks just reminded me of the time when I went to a job fair and encountered one of my regulars at the coffee shop I worked for at one of the company tables. He recognized me as the barista, and I immediately remembered him by his coffee order! I was internally MASSIVELY grateful that his NAME came out of my mouth before his order! He was a great sport about it, but it felt like the most stereotypical barista thing in my whole life.

      I didn’t end up working with him, but I suspect it would have been a running joke with him if I had.

  28. bratschegirl*

    Since we’re talking about tea, I would love it if OP or anyone else from the UK could answer this for me. If you take milk in your tea, which goes into the cup first? I have seen and heard many people saying that the proper and/or posh way is milk, then tea, but I also distinctly recall reading somewhere “She’s rather milk-in-first, dear” which was definitely being used as an insult. Enlighten me, please?

    1. PeanutButter*

      I’m not sure which is which, but “She’s rather milk-in-first, dear” is from Judith Martin’s Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. Miss Manners thinks caring about which goes in first is rather silly and has never had even the thinnest of china shatter from hot tea (one wonders how people who drink tea without milk would manage!), but does wonder how one determines the appropriate amount of milk, as she always goes by the color.

      1. bratschegirl*

        Yes!! That’s where it came from, we own that book and I’ve definitely read it. Wasn’t she quoting someone, though?

    2. Jora Malli*

      I’m not from the UK, but I did a semester abroad in grad school and one of my professors told me that if you brew the tea in a teapot before pouring it into your cup, it’s milk first. If you’re just brewing one cup for yourself and you’re going to steep it in the cup, you put the milk after. I did come home and buy an electric kettle because the one in the kitchen of my student housing was so useful!

      1. Sasha*

        Yep, this. If you are brewing the tea in the mug, you can’t put the milk in first because the water won’t then be hot enough to brew the tea.

        If you are using a teapot, everyone puts their own milk in their cups, then the hostess pours the tea for the whole group. Traditionally there’s the risk of the cups shattering from the hot tea otherwise, but that’s not really a likely occurrence with modern china.

        Putting the teabag in the mug is seen as a bit uncouth (everyone does it, but it’s the quick and dirty way of making tea compared to the faff of making a pot).

        So if somebody is a “milk in first” person, that implies they only drink tea from a pot, ie they are a bit prim and proper, or possibly think they are better than you.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          My mother always made tea in a pot even just for herself. She even had a mini teapot just for that. Definitely the primmest and properest woman I have ever known. The queen would have trouble keeping up with her.
          She (my mother not the queen) said that adding the milk afterwards could cause the milk to turn. Nowadays, with cold pasteurised milk that lasts for weeks, it’s not such a problem, but back in the day we only had like 2-3 days to drink the milk then it would turn. (Strangely, nobody remembers those days, yet cold pasteurisation was introduced in the nineties). When I get milk from the organic shop, it does sometimes turn in fact so then I’m careful to make tea just like my mother used to (I did not inherit her teapot).

          1. DuskPunkZebra*

            Wonder if she tended to drink acidic teas? I have curdled milk in teas because I either forgot or didn’t know there was something acidic in the blend – rose hips and hibiscus being my most common issues.

    3. Batgirl*

      You can’t put the milk in first if you’re making a quick cuppa in the mug. The cold milk would prevent the hot water from brewing the tea. Don’t even think about adding milk until the tea is a good strong colour. Office tea rounds involve the mug method because you’re brewing up quickly on a tray, not sat around a table with time for a separate teapot to brew and be poured out. In the table situation, people would add their own milk, which I think is still easier to do so last because you can judge how much milk you want by the colour of the tea. However in times gone by, you risked shattering old fashioned pottery by putting the hot tea in first. It’s also said that it curdles the milk when it’s added last, but I’ve never understood why, it never happens to me unless the milk is already off. Perhaps it was more common pre pasteurisation.

    4. Ina Lummick*

      I’m a milk second person but that mainly because I have a thing about removing the teabag first before adding milk/sugar in.

  29. Earl Grey, Kind of Hot*

    I enjoy that the British code is explained in British code. Top-tier.

  30. MEH Squared*

    I am Asian and American, so I boil tea water in the microwave before adding the tea bag (or leaves)–no milk. I have no idea what those wretched women would think of me. I wish you well, OP, in your search for a new job. Know that this BS was allllll about them and not you.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I read somewhere that if you want to extract the health benefits from tea you need to put the teabag in a mug of water and microwave it until it is boiling. I tried it once – it was was very strong tea!

    2. DuskPunkZebra*

      Careful about that, you can end up with superheated water that will suddenly boil explosively when you go to move it. Generally advised to put something with some texture in (I like bamboo chopsticks) so the bubbles have something to form on. Really smooth vessels increase your risks.

      Tea is wonderful, but not worth boiling water burns. (Can attest from experience – ouch!)

  31. Catty Heron*

    “I asked her several times if she wanted anything before I went to the shop. She said no. Then she yelled at me for not getting something for her anyway.” Regina is certifiably insane.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        You were supposed to feel the vibes while you were in the shop!

        Once I went to a shop to get some food for lunch and when I got back, my colleague asked me whether I’d bought butter. I told her no, but strangely, I’d looked at the butter for a long time before shaking myself out of a mini-trance and telling myself that no, I didn’t need butter, I was only shopping for lunch, and I’d get butter for home back in my home town.
        Apparently she’d been sending vibes over to try to persuade me to buy some butter, because she needed some but hadn’t realised it until after I had left.
        (anecdote dating from last century, hence no mobile phones involved)

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      Wildly entitled, yes, but not insane, in fact, incredibly crafty. You see, in the UK at least (and probably elsewhere – South Africa definitely), if you are going to the shop or wherever and ask if anyone wants anything and they say yes, then they are expected to pay for whatever it is, as in, ”please get me a can of coke while you’re out – here’s the cash” type of thing.

      BUT!! If you just bring back, say, cold drinks or brownies or whatever on spec, well, then that’s a gift and no payment is expected. Regina wanted a freebie treat and had the towering effrontery to have a tantrum when one did not arrive.

      1. Batgirl*

        Yeah she knows the rules, but not how to follow them, and flies in the face of the spirit behind the rules. Someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  32. Vio*

    I can never remember how anybody takes their drinks, who wants tea or coffee, regular or decaf, infusions, hot chocolates, lattes, mochas, etc so if there’s more than a few of us in a meeting then I’ll usually apologise and ask if someone can help me or I’ll just get my own (I’ve long since given up trying to write down fifteen different drink orders and get them all onto a tray without losing track of which is which) and fortunately my co-workers are very understanding of this. I used to work on our coffee bar as a volunteer before I became staff, so you’d think I’d remember peoples preferred beverages but I have an absolutely abysmal memory (amazingly they knew this and were still willing to hire me, it’s a very supportive team)

    1. Ina Lummick*

      Normally in UK tea culture the tea/coffee options are
      Tea = English breakfast (milk and/or sugar)
      Coffee = instant coffee (milk and or sugar).

      If it’s more complicated or fancy, then you’d probably need to make it yourself or go out and buy it from a coffee shop.

      Luckily the team I worked in was 5 people including me, so if I lost the morning quiz it wasn’t too bad to remember people’s preference after a little while.

  33. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Yet again, a mild question reveals a toxic environment.
    And it is delightfully British when the straw that breaks the camel’s back is about making tea.
    It’s even funnier for me, since in my role as token Brit in my previous office, I took it upon myself to make tea for everybody. The hot young IT lad even fell in love with me over it, which was unexpected to say the least.

    1. Caz*

      Once at my work the kettle broke down and it wasn’t possible to replace it for over an hour. When I arrived with the new kettle, I was first hailed as a hero – until I pointed out that, for safety reasons, it was necessary to boil and discard water from it a couple of times before it could be used, at which point I became the person standing between 30 British office workers and their tea. It’s not a comfortable place to stand.

  34. nnn*

    Does cake in this context mean something different in the UK? Or was she asking you to buy her a multi-serving dessert decorated with icing where you have to cut a piece and eat it with a fork?

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      It means an individual type of baked good, like a brownie or a muffin or iced bun or whatever.

      What Regina wanted was to not have to actually pay for a goodie, so as well as nasty, rude and entitled, she is a certified sponge.

    2. Batgirl*

      A corner shop wouldn’t have a full sized cake that you would slice; but there would be multi packs of cake bars, or mini cakes in paper cases. They sit in hard plastic bases, a bit like an egg box and are wrapped in clear cellophane. It’s common to pick one up for the office as a generosity, but really rude to demand a cake like as toddler.

    3. OP*

      Yeah the shop I went to had a self serve bakery section with a variety of individual stuff like cookies, brownies, muffins, pastries etc

  35. Teaaddict*

    I hate coffee and love tea. My sister is the opposite. When I visit her she will make me tea and it is drinkable but not well made. Equally I keep instant coffee for guests and know how to make it but have no idea how to use a coffee machine, or turn ground beans into coffee. When she visited me for a week she brought her own coffee machine and made her own which was a sensible move. Why would anyone want someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee to make it? My sister is rubbish at making tea and I am rubbish at making coffee.

  36. Heffalump*

    Oops–I forgot which thread I had open. I meant to post this to the weekend open thread!

  37. Caz*

    This is so ingrained in British office culture and I, a British non-hot-drink-drinker and office worker of 20+ years’ history, still find it absolutely baffling. I generally make a point of finding several opportunities in my first week of a new job to decline hot drinks (several opportunities will naturally present themselves!) and that’s usually that…but sometimes I have had to make my own adjustments to it, which have been interesting. Being ready to make a cup of tea for one manager when she arrived on site was clearly an unspoken part of my job description, and being part of the tea/coffee round in another office (with a water glass) helped smooth my return to the office after some time out for surgery.

  38. WhatAreYouGonnaDo*

    This situation is (was) insane! I’m an American who’s worked in the UK and Ireland for a long while, and *never* have I come across the expectation that someone is to make tea/coffee (or purchase food?) for anyone else. Sure, we’ll all be like, “Gonna grab some tea, wanna join?” and it becomes more of a social time where each person gets their own whatever. Seriously, in nearly 20 years working in UK/Irish offices, not once has anyone made me a cuppa, nor have I gotten it for anyone that hadn’t asked when I made it clear what I was up to.

    To me, these women sound like schoolyard bullies. And, within a culture of “keep a stiff upper lip” — don’t emote, don’t ask for help, don’t complain — it seems those two were taking advantage of the OP knowing, well… she wouldn’t complain.

    I’m super glad it was only a short-term thing. But, even though other British have said it’s expected to make tea/coffee for others, I don’t agree. It seems more like a hyper-regional or even institutionally cultural thing. Definitely, as OP ID’d, it’s a power thing, plain and simple.

    (Side note: I get so many compliments — though amazed ones — here on this side of the Pond about how I stand/speak up for myself in situations like these. I’ll hear, “Oh it’s amazing you said something! Good on you!” when I say, “No, not really… sure, you’d do the same,” the reply is an aghast, “Oh, no! I’d never. I’d be mortified!”)

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