Morning Tea: ‘The History of White People In America’ and ‘Them’

It’s been an exhausting year of reckonings of all sorts for all of humanity. Thankfully we still make art to help us process it all.

Favorite cup at the moment

As I do most mornings, I was sipping on my piping hot cup of Earl Grey from a new favorite mug and scrolling through my social media feed. 45 is no longer president of the US but the gears and servers of terror churn on no matter who is at the helm, as the comments section of any post about Meghan Markle will attest. It’s a machine that’s built to last–the terror machine–and it was forged by those in power well before we formed this imperfect Union.

I came upon two video clips that throw into sharp relief what has been forgotten about the history of race in the US and what bubbles and seethes just under the surface before erupting in shocking and grotesque displays of violence that are straight out of a horror film.

In the morning, I am always hesitant to click on any article that talks about race in America because I just want to enjoy a few moments free of all the blegh that runs rife through the human experience. But this morning, for whatever reason, I took the plunge. The first was an article from back in June of 2020.

Back then, here in Iceland, we were emerging cautiously from lockdown but over at World Channel (working with PBS), Jon Halperin and Ed Bell were releasing The History of White People in America, an animated musical series examining race and injustice in the US. Meanwhile, I was just giddy to be able to be in the same room with people I didn’t live with.

The first episode of the series, How America Invented Race tells the story of how ‘whiteness’ became a thing. It’s a musical, but manages not to pull any punches while showing how those living in colonial America went from regarding each other based on nationality or ethnic group to assigning a ‘race’ based on skin color.

You can find Meghan Smith’s interview with the creators here.

After that I was primed and ready to do something else I don’t usually do first thing in the morning, watch the trailer for a horror series. I used to love a good scary movie but having kids put a serious damper on my appetite. Now that they’re older and we no longer live in a place where I fear for their safety whenever they walk out the front door, I’m slowly edging my way back into the genre.

In horror, we get to see all the fear and shame that lingers in our collective subconscious. The usual horror flicks with white teenage boys murdering white teenage girls after they’ve had sex (and definitely kill all the black people first because in an ideal white America, there are no black people) and ‘aliens’ come from outer space to destroy ‘our’ way of life and take ‘our’ jobs are so 20th century.

Candyman punched a hole in the horror glass ceiling back in 1992 and since then films and shows such as Get Out, Us, Lovecraft Country and the like have broadened the scope of visual horror and thriller storytelling in the US.

And next up on the scene is Them a series created and executive produced by Little Marvin. A black family moves into a white neighborhood in 1950s Los Angeles. The neighbors welcome them smiling faces but we all know there’s more to it than meets the eye and terror ensues.

It comes out April 6 on Amazon Prime so I probably won’t be watching it as I canceled my Amazon Prime subscription and there’s probably some annoying regional restriction as well. Why can’t we all just watch all the shows regardless of where we live? Cause money and power, that’s why. And if you watched the The History of White People in America video up top, you know that’s also why we have race. Ugh.

Best Places to Get a Good Cup of Tea in Reykjavík

tea and tea ball in white cup

Icelanders LOVE their coffee so you can get a great cup just about anywhere. But my Icelandic peeps aren’t too hip to the tea jive, which makes it difficult for a tea drinker like myself to find a cafe that serves a good cup of tea. In two years of living in Reykjavík I’ve managed to find a few places that know how to (to misquote Missy Elliot) put the kettle on, steep it and (re)serve it…with cake, yummy, yummy cake.

Kaffi Laugarlækur

Laugarnesvegur 74a, 105 Reykjavík

This place is kind of a hidden gem. It’s not in downtown Reykjavík but in a neighboring emerging hipster (not the kind you want to trip because they’re so freakin’ pretentious but maybe just poke really hard because they’re on the verge) neighborhood. They serve a lovely pot of tea and have great vegan and vegetarian options on the menu. Two pinky fingers holding a fancy tea cup up from me.

Kaffi Brennslan

Laugavegur 21, 101 Reykjavík

Kaffi Brennslan is smack dab in the middle of Laugavegur, has a small yet carefully selected variety of loose leaf and bagged teas and has yummy cakes. All of these elements combined make it the bees knees in my book. Did I mention they also have waffles? Served with chocolate and whipped cream? Yeah. Tasty.


Mýrargata 2, 101 Reykjavík

Amid the mid-century chic with a sprinkling of industrial decor, Slippbarinn serves a pretty decent little pot of tea (and a yummy slice of carrot cake) with a view of the old harbor. One of the things I love about it is that you can sit at the bar, at one of the nearby tables, or take your pot o’ tea to a little nook surrounded by shelves decorated with all manner of interesting knick-knacks. 

Te & Kaffi

Laugavegur 27, 101 Reykjavík

There’s nothing spectacular about the tea here and some locations serve the tea after it’s been steeped so you can’t be sure of the strength. Stay with me here. The thing I like about Te & Kaffi is that they sell loose leaf tea. I can get my Earl Grey at a fairly reasonable price and brew it to my liking, in my kitchen and then watch a Korean drama or work on my novel manuscript which I am sure I will finish in the next few years or so.

Súfistinn Kaffihús

Strandgata 9, Hafnarfjörður

Shhh, don’t tell anyone but this cafe is actually in downtown Hafnafjörður. The cafe itself is cozy with two creaky floors of old, small town charm. I will say that they were a little heavy handed with the tea leaves but I prefer my too strong than too weak. Added bonus, you can sit upstairs by one of their old school wood frame windows and watch the denizens of Hafnafjörður go about their…Hafnafjörðuring.

Honorable Mentions:

Stofan Kaffihús

Aðalstræti, 101 Reykjavík

You’ll get your classic eclectic coffee house vibe here but what you won’t get is freshly boiled hot water hitting your tea leaves. After I ordered my tea I was given a tea cup, tea bag and pointed in the direction of a hot water dispenser. Not ideal but not bad. And since is right downtown, if you hang out long enough (and by that I mean a few seconds) you’re bound to run into someone you know and possibly even like.

Cafe Haiti

Geirsgata 5C, 101 Reykjavík

This is another case of nice vibe and OK tea. Cafe Haiti is right by the old harbor and has a whimsical ocean theme going on and the chocolate cake is tasty. That said, my tea was served as hot water in a tea cup, with a tea bag on the side. It’s a common tea-serving/making problem in cafes in Iceland but, as I said about Stofan, the atmosphere and location make up for the lack of exceptional tea.

There you have it folks, the tea hot spots of Reykjavík (*whispers* and Hafnafjörður). Check them out if you’re in town. Tell them Lydia sent you. They’ll have no idea who I am but it will make you seem quirky and memorable and possibly get you an even better cup of tea…and a bigger slice of cake.

Angelica Schuyler Church Meets The Earl of Westfjords

The Earl of Westfjords. A delicate Earl Grey with Angelica, perfect for a quiet winter’s evening.

An Earl Grey/Hamilton Inspired Micro-story

Weary of her lavish life with her boring English husband, but unwilling to break her sister’s heart by pursuing her brother-in-law Alexander, Angelica Church née Schuyler flees to Iceland. In the darkness of a winter morning, she wanders into a small cafe in Reykjavík. She warms her hands with a cup of Earl Grey and wonders what her dearest sister, Eliza, is doing at the this very moment. The winds howl outside, rattling the windows and nearly gutting the fire in the hearth. It is so loud that when a man introduces himself as, “Björn, from the Westfjords,” Angelica hears, “Earl of the Westfjords,” unaware that Iceland has no titled families. “Ah,” she muses, “An Earl. It wouldn’t be so bad to be married to an Earl in this fanciful place. It would be ever so amusing.”  She marries the “Earl” on a whim and is rather shocked to find herself spending her days wearing itchy wool sweaters, picking her namesake herb and selling it by the quarter pound while Björn is at sea. Dissatisfied (she will never be satisfied), she returns to England and opens a small tea shop—a front for a radical abolitionist/suffragette group and lives happily ever after.