Further Thoughts on Drinking and (A)Sexuality, Part 3

In Part 1 I focused on alcohol, and Part 2 I focused on tea. In this final part, I am going to focus on where (USA) asexual culture fits into this.

I feel that, to the extent that there is a (USA) asexual culture, abstaining from alcohol for whatever reason is fine, without being hostile to those who choose to drink alcohol. I think this is how it should be.

Ily noticed way back in 2008 that a disproportionate number of aces are teetotalers, and based on my anecdotal observations, it’s still that way now. I halfway fit into that since a) I was a teetotaling ace who knew she was ace for years and b) ever since I’ve returned to the United States (almost a year ago), I have had exactly one alcoholic drink. I don’t know why so many online aces are teetotalers, though I can speculate.

In the same series of posts (“Things Asexuals Like”), Ily also noted that a lot of people who identify as asexual also identify as introverts, and that asexuals like tea.

About a month ago, I hosted an ace meetup called “Tea and Cookies”. I offered both caffeinated and caffeine-free tea just in case there was someone who abstains from caffeine (everyone who showed up was fine with the caffeine tea). Someone at the meetup commented that drinking tea seemed very appropriate for asexuals, since it goes well with introversion.

Okay, I’m the person who had the brilliant idea of having an ace meetup centered around tea, and then actually made it happen, so I wasn’t in a position to argue against the asexual-tea connection.

I did respond that I am not an introvert. I know that introverts feel ‘drained’ after having to socialize with a lot of people, particularly strangers, for an extended period of time, but I don’t relate to the experience (also, I don’t identify as an extrovert – the last time I took any kind of Myers-Briggs test, the results said that I was 1% more extroverted than introverted, which was its way of saying that my personality doesn’t have a place on the introvert-extrovert spectrum).

On top of that, the tea culture which imprinted itself on me is Taiwanese tea culture, and in a Taiwanese context, associating tea drinking with asexuality doesn’t make much sense since “everybody” in the upper or middle class drinks tea and a lot of people who aren’t also drink tea. Heck, in certain contexts in Taiwan, ‘teahouse’ has been used as a euphemism for ‘brothel’, and ‘serving tea’ has been used as a euphemism for … I think you can figure it out.

When I was offering that caffeine-free tea at the meetup, I was really offering it to my past self. At the time I started identifying with asexuality I was still avoiding caffeine, and encountering memes which suggested that drinking (caffeinated) tea and being asexual went together … it wasn’t a big deal, but it did make me feel a teensy bit alienated from asexual culture.

Even though I am now a tea-drinker myself – and even though I organized that meetup – I still feel uncomfortable with tea becoming part of a stereotype of how asexuals are. I am totally cool with a group of asexuals who all like tea getting together to drink tea – especially the tea is good and I am invited. What I don’t want it to become is ‘oh, you’re asexual, of course you like tea.’

I was more comfortable in ace spaces as the asexual who drank a little alcohol than as the asexual who never drank (caffeinated) tea. I understand the urge to establish an asexual culture around something we do rather than something we do not do, but as Siggy has said, negative may be better than the alternative.

Further Thoughts on Drinking and (A)Sexuality (Part 2)

In the previous post, I focused on drinking alcohol. In this post, I focus on drinking tea.

My mother raised me with the attitude that a drug is a drug, whether it’s legal or not, and both alcohol and caffeine counted. Actually, she emphasized caffeine and tobacco more than alcohol or any of the illegal drugs. She never explicitly forbade me from using drugs, she simply assumed that I would have better sense than to get into them, which in a way was more effective than an explicit ban would have been. Most importantly, she set a example, making sure every beverage was caffeine-free before she would drink it (she occasionally would drink alcohol, demonstrating to me as a youngster that caffeine was worse than alcohol).

Yeah, it was odd being the one kid who never drank cola beverages. I once found a caffeine-free Coca-Cola at a party, and drank it so I would finally know what a coke was like without having any of that yucky caffeine in it. I have never drunk any cola beverage since. And avoiding caffeine was never an issue for me socially – at least, not in the United States.

Then I moved to Taiwan.

Taiwan consumes more tea (and by tea, I mean the beverages derived from camelia sinesis) per capita than any other society on earth. That should give you a clue about the importance of tea in contemporary Taiwanese culture.

And tea contains caffeine.

I once wrote about my mother’s attitudes towards caffeine/tea and its impact on me in Chinese, and then posted it online. I think that is one of the most read/commented upon things I have ever written in Chinese, and the comments were along the lines of “Tea is so healthy, you should drink it every day, your mother is so ignorant and silly” (okay, the comments were politer than that).

I tried to avoid tea in Taiwan – at first. But I quickly discovered that this would make my social life more difficult, particularly if I wanted to interact with Taiwanese people rather than other foreigners. In Taiwan, refusing to drink tea stirs up a much bigger reaction than refusing to drink alcohol or coffee.

Well, I caved in. I went against how my mother raised me, and started drinking tea.

In the beginning, I did it only for social reasons. However, an early encounter with Taiwanese tea was with the kind which is rapidly becoming popular around the world – the sweetened and with little black tapioca balls. As it so happens, I had developed a taste for beverages with the tapioca balls years before in San Francisco, but in there such drinks were generally available without tea (I say ‘were’ because it’s getting harder to find shops offering tea-free tapioca drinks). Thus, this kind of tea was more familiar to me than the more traditional kinds of tea. And though I eventually learned which kinds of “tea” in the Taiwanese tea shops were caffeine-free, I didn’t know when I first arrived in Taiwan, which meant, to scratch my itch for tapioca drinks … I had to order it with tea.

Then I got used to drinking tea, and I didn’t notice the horrible effects of caffeine (tea only has low to moderate amounts of caffeine).

Then I started to like tea.

Then I became obsessed with tea – by American standards (I am *not* obsessed by Taiwanese standards). I can compare Muzha Iron Goddess tea to Dayuling Mountain tea (Muzha and Dayuling are both places in Taiwan – a true connoisseur of Taiwanese tea knows which town, or even better, the specific plantation, where the tea was grown) (Muzha Iron Goddess is better, but some Taiwanese people disagree with me).

And now, I drink tea – real tea, where my mother can see me. Her opinion of tea hasn’t changed, but since I’m an adult now, I am free to indulge in drugs as long as it doesn’t become a destructive habit.

So, does it mean that it was a good thing that I had that social pressure applied to me? I liked the results after I caved in, right? Why not cave into other kinds of social pressure – say, the pressure to drink alcohol or have sex?

Well, I have four responses to that:

1) Even without the social pressure, I would have noticed that tea is a big deal in Taiwan. I would have probably become curious and tried it anyway, thought it might have been a much slower process.

2) My life was satisfying before I got into tea, and I imagine I could have had a full and satisfying life without ever discovering the goodness of tea.

3) What if I had had a medical reason to avoid tea?

4) Tea is relatively low-risk compared to alcohol and sex. Tea does not impair my judgment or motor skills. Being a teaholic isn’t as potentially harmful as being an alcoholic. Tea cannot get me pregnant or infected with an STI. Tea doesn’t have the same potential to spoil my relationships with other people that sex has. I caved as easily as I did partially because I was, intellectually, aware that drinking tea was a low-risk activity.

You may be wondering what asexuality has to do with this. Well, there is the parallel between compulsory tea-drinking and compulsory sexuality. I also wish to bring asexuality into a different angle of this discussion, which will happen in Part 3.


FUN FACT: The word ‘tea’ originally comes from the Taiwanese language (okay, it comes from Hokkien, but Taiwanese is a dialect of Hokkien). In fact, ‘tea’ is the only English word I know of which originates from Taiwanese/Hokkien.

Six Days in Shikoku: The Teahouses of Ritsurin Garden

In the background of the photo is a forested hill on the left, and white sky on the right.  At the base of the hill is a teahouse, and before it is a pond.  In the lower right of the photo is a bonsai pine tree

One of the highlights of Ritsurin Garden (described in the previous post) is the teahouse.

This map shows that Takamatsu is on the northern tip on the eastern side of Shikoku island

Ritsurin Garden is in Takamatsu

There are actually a few teahouses in the garden, such as the small one shown in the photo below:

In the background, nestled among the green pine trees, we can see a small traditional Japanese building with a thatched roof.  Leading to the building is a path of large stones set into an area of sand.  It's clear that this photo was taken under another structure with a thatched roof, and we see the shadow of the thatching at the top of the photo.

At the time I visited, the only teahouse open to the public was the largest one, Kikugetsu-tei (Moon Scooping Pavilion).

We see a rectangular Japanese-style building jutting into a pond, with bonsai pine trees on the left side.

What do you do in the teahouse? Why, you drink tea!

The interior of the teahouse, with the open airy room, the tatami mats on the floor, and the traidtional wooden panelling on the walls.

While you are waiting for your tea and local variety of sweet mochi, you can enjoy the views.

Looking out of the teahouse, there is a bonsai pine tree, with a little stone basin full of water below it, and various green plants surrounding it

Looking out of the wooden platform, we see a group of elegantly prune bonsai pine trees in a field of carefully raked gravel

On the left side, a full-sized pine tree towers above, and a bonsai pine tree stands before it, with a group of large rocks lining the bottom of the picture.  In the upper right there is white sky, and below the white sky is a vast pond.

And once you have been served matcha tea and mochi, you can enjoy the tea, mochi, and the views all at the same time.




I ending up drinking quite a few traditionally-prepared cups of matcha tea in historic teahouses in Japan, and I enjoyed every single cup and accompanying dessert. The tea and mochi were, as usual, very good. However, I don’t think I visited any other teahouse in Japan which had views as beautiful as this one.

There is a large pine tree supported by wooden beans filling most of the picture, and behind it is the pond, which looks small by comparison.

One of the things which makes Kikugetsu-tei so special is that it can be viewed from so many different angles, from both the inside and outside, and look fresh from every direction. Indeed, allowing a landscape to look new and fresh from multiple angles was a basic principle of traditional Japanese leisure gardens, and I think the designers of Ritsurin garden succeeded in this.


From the outside, the teahouse enhances the overall aesthetic beauty of the garden in better than other teahouse I saw in Japan does.



I walked around and looked at the teahouse from the outside after I had drunk the tea, so looking upon it brought back a memory of satisfying tea. However, I suppose I could have done it the other way around, and scope out the teahouse longingly, building up anticipation until I finally entered the teahouse and ordered tea.


After enjoying myself in Ritsurin Garden, I took the local tram back to downtown Takamatsu, checked out of the hotel, and hopped on a bus to my next destination, Tokushima City. The next post will present one of the iconic features of Tokushima. But for now, a final photo of Ritsurin Garden.

At the bottom of the picture is the pond.  On the left is a grey egret.  Above there is a bunch of bonsai pine trees, with the teahouse barely visible behind the bonsai.