diana writes:
Mr. Iced Tea: Traveling Abroad With My Father

On a recent trip to Spain, traveling with my family for the first time in fifteen years, I was amused watching the culture shock set in for my father, who had never been to Europe despite all of the EU stamps in my own passport. I thrive on being immersed in cultures foreign to my own. I’ve visited the ruins of ancient empires and modern city centers; I’ve trekked through deserts, rainforests and reefs. Mostly I’ve traveled alone, or sometimes with a group of strangers. You learn a lot about yourself when you just pack up and go someplace new. You learn to adapt, to be flexible and open-minded, to appreciate what you have. You learn not only about the places you visit, but also about people.

Every day we spent in Spain my father was on a quest to locate Iced Tea - that’s all he drinks, and even in a foreign country, he asked for it - in English - wherever we went. Of course I know that my father always drinks Iced Tea, but it never fully registered that Iced Tea is all he drinks. No water, soda, beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages. Coffee? Never. I grew up watching him brew several pitchers of Iced Tea in a three quart Mr. Coffee® Iced Tea Pot on a weekly basis - solely for his own consumption. Whenever we dined at restaurants he’d order an unsweetened Iced Tea with three lemons and at parties he’d bring his own supply, kept in a cooler in the car, in case the hosts didn’t offer it.

My father’s private stash, freshly brewed.

Despite knowing all of that, I didn’t fully realize how all consuming my father’s Iced Tea obsession/addiction was until we reached Barcelona. The idea that any restaurant would not list it on the menu or a café not stock it in their refrigerated beverage case was unimaginable to him. One night after a long day of sightseeing, several members of the group we were traveling with stopped at a café to enjoy coffee, hot chocolate and pastries. My father disappeared – he was on a mission to score some tea. Twenty minutes later he returned, smiling, carrying a bag from a convenience store. He twisted the cap off of an enormous container of Nestea® and took a swig from the bottle right from the plastic bag.

In nearly every photo of my father taken on our trip, he’s clutching a bottle of Nestea® - the brand he settled for since the Spaniards are less enthusiastic about the beverage than my father, and he didn’t think to bring a case of his preferred Snapple® or Lipton® Tea along from home. To be sure, if he ever travels abroad again, locating Iced Tea will be at the top of his to do list – that is, if he doesn’t pack it in his suitcase.

My father enjoying an iced tea at an outdoor café in Barcelona.