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To the person who put coffee into the specific container designated for hot water:

Like on so many prior occasions, I poured hot water from the spout of a tall, silver cylinder. I checked – the paper card in front of it was labeled “Hot Water” in an elegant calligraphic font. I checked again, as the clear water poured into a disposable paper cup where a bag of Earl Grey waited expectantly. I checked a third time, pulling the cup to my face, blowing my cool breath over the steaming surface, and inhaling to enjoy the floral notes of bergamot.

After letting the tea bag steep for the appropriate three to five minutes, discarding it, and waiting for my tea to cool to a drinkable temperature, I tipped my cup, opened my mouth, and swallowed. I then reared back, my face retching in horror, and spat the beverage like a desperate humpback coming up for breath.

At that moment, Catherine Belleford, one of the most distinguished guests at my party, was in the middle of telling a compelling story. Something about her recent visit to Sudan. Or perhaps something about the microfinance program she heads up in Rwanda. Or perhaps it wasn’t about Africa at all. How could I possibly remember which war-torn country while under such a disorienting sensory assault?

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, the hot water that I poured into my tea cup was soiled and tainted with the filthy, scummy remains of coffee grinds of yore. And with just one sip, I knew there was nothing I could do to salvage my after dinner tea. It was all over.

Of course, there were no visible flecks of this intruder to warn me of your egregious foul. The flavor of coffee is an invisible but permanent infection, not unlike Hepatitis C (for which I’ve just been tested, because who knows the reach of your carelessness.)

Bitter. Overpowered. Totally and completely attacked.

How it tasted is exactly how I felt.

With no warning, I found myself on the receiving end of a muddy brew I never chose. But I suppose that as a tea drinker in America, I don’t get a say in the matter. I suppose that you, anonymous terrible caterer, get to decide what goes into my body. How humiliating and dehumanizing. You should be ashamed of yourself.

The duress to which you subjected me is so sloppy, so careless, so utterly negligent that it might constitute criminality.

It’s not my fault that I have a delicate palette.

In fact, most would consider this a highly desirable attribute, an indication of prestige and esteem. Why, someone of my genetic disposition could be a fine chef or a sommelier or a judge on The Food Network’s prime-time production, Chopped.

I suppose, in retrospect, I should be glad that you work only in catering and not in a hospital or a nuclear power plant, because your complete disregard for the perils of cross-contamination would surely lead to an outbreak or an international incident.

Instead, you embarrassed me in front of all my friends and colleagues.

But moreover, you embarrassed yourself. It’s times like these that I’m comforted God is watching us all and you will be judged when you arrive at St. Peter’s heavenly gates as the miscreant you are. I know most pray for a merciful God, but in moments like these I hope He still has room in his heart for fire and brimstone.

Not everyone is deserving of His wrath, but you’ve ruined a fine party, a very fine beverage, and a perfectly fine friendship with Catherine Belleford. What was once pure is now compromised. Things will never be the same. And it’s all your fault.

As a result, I will not be paying my final invoice to White Linen Catering, though please do extend my compliments to Chef Lisa whose caviar and crème fraîche tartlets were positively divine.

Worst regards,

Constance Legrand

Kelaine Conochan

The editor-in-chief of this magazine, who should, in all honesty, be a gym teacher. Don’t sleep on your plucky kid sister.

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