Satire, Tea and Life

Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major

Today’s quite sensible title is probably a relief to those who question my more esoteric ones.

As you all probably know, Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major is one of the Treble Place Major bell ringing methods. It proudly takes its place alongside Lou’s Carrot Treble Place Major, Cockup Bridge Treble Place Major and the others in its category.

It’s pretty useful if you have eight bells. Heck, add two more bells and you can even go for a Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Royal.

Between the two of them (Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major and Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Royal) you have the entire subset of bell ringing methods which mention tea. So, as this is ostensibly a tea blog, let’s find out together what we can about the why and how of naming a bell ringing method after an implement of tea ware.

Anyway, a little bit of research shows that the most famous performance of Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major was at Saint Bartholomew’s in Sproxton, Leicestershire, UK in 2002. It took 4 hours and 46 minutes and was a birthday surprise for someone, possibly an unwelcome one if they didn’t much care for campanology.

A lot of research later, and I’ve found practically nothing, except to note this oddity: the Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major takes at least 4 hours, the Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Royal considerably longer, but consider these:

  • The Rumbaba and Whiskey Chaser minor is shorter and uses on 7 bells
  • The Rum Surprise Minor is shorter again and uses 6 bells
  • The Eden Ale Minor (ditto)

So the ones named after alcoholic beverages are shorter and require less effort? And the search for methods named after coffee returned no results.

The only logical conclusion* is that this indicates that better, long lasting performance is attained through copious tea drinking, not alcoholic beverages nor coffee.

That sounds right. Does it ring any bells for you?



*in the modern sense of “twisting science to mean whatever you want it to mean”

Tea and Life

Legendary Recycling

We were watching a David Attenborough show about silk the other day, and he mentioned Leizu.

It seems that according to Chinese legend, Leizu was sitting under a tree in about 2700 when a silk cocoon fell into her tea. She watched it unravel, and from there, a silk industry was born.
Pretty amazing, and yet, pretty familiar sounding.

The more familiar Chinese legend to my readers is that of Shen Nong, who discovered tea when wild tea leaves fell in his pot of boiling water.

What? It’s basically the same story. And given that Leizu’s husband, The Yellow Emperor, may have succeeded Shen Nong on the throne, all in the family.

It amazes me that the Chinese seem so ready to pass of their truly brilliant discoveries as happenstance. Doesn’t really happen in the West.

Sure, you might claim that an apple falling on Isaac Newton’s bonce is the same legend, but there was gravity before he earned a lump on his noggin, and afterwards. He didn’t really discover it, he just sort of noticed it, wrote the rule book and mentioned it endlessly.

I don’t think that’s ever happened in South Australia. I wonder if I could create one.

“Richard Bowyer Smith was having his elevenses in a poorly ploughed field on the Yorke Peninsula in 1876, when a stump jump plough fell in his tea.”

“Robert Torrens was sitting about in Parliament House,  Adelaide in 1858, when a diagram of a new means of registering land titles fell into his tea”

Works for me.

Tea and Life

Death of a Universe

“As the message drained away Vimes stared at the opposite wall, in which the door now opened, after a cursory knock, to reveal the steward bearing that which is guaranteed to frighten away all nightmares, to wit, a cup of hot tea.*
* The sound of the gentle rattle of china cup on china saucer drives away all demons, a little-known fact.”

Sir Terry Pratchett departed this mortal realm a day or so ago.

I’ve added the quote above, from “Snuff”, one of his Discworld books, to excuse myself for writing this piece on my tea blog. But I would cheerfully have proceeded to do so anyway.

In 2008 we made the decision to change telecommunications providers. And as a result, spent 8 weeks without the internet at home. Now, I know you might think I should have a book deal as a result, talking about how immeasurably better my life was and how I grew closer to God or whatever, but it’s not the case. We has just sold a business, and we were looking for our next project. And as a result, I grew closer to two library shelves.

Here’s how it works. One hour’s free internet at McDonalds Reynella whilst nursing a peppermint tea at around 7am. If needs be, move on to McDonalds Noarlunga for another hour afterwards. head home for breakfast. Do stuff. Head down to the library mid afternoon for an hour’s free internet there, then if I really must, McDonald Seaford is the go in the evening.

I remember one Saturday when the library was closed sitting up against the wall using their wi-fi. I really had become a wi-fi freeloader.

At the library, the wi-fi had a habit of dropping out for 10 or 15 minutes, so what do you do? You browse, grab a book here or there. And I grabbed two books that were to set off a chain reaction: Robert Rankin’s “Raiders of The Lost Car Park” and Terry Pratchet’s “Wyrd Sisters”. So I didn’t find God. At least I don’t think so.

On nights such as these the gods, as has already been pointed out, play games other than chess with the fates of mortals and the thrones of kings. It is important to remember that they always cheat, right up to the end…” (Wyrd Sisters)

I can attest to having read all of Rankins books, and all of Pratchett’s Discworld series. And I doubt that any two writers have affected me more.

Not since my late teens when I fell under the spell of Philip K. Dick did I find myself so desperate to read more and more of an author (or two). All three in a class of their own, and the styles of all three I have plundered time and time again.

Whilst Dick tells me that the 50s and 60s (when he did most of his best work) were part of a different world, and Rankin talks of an underworld and a lost Victorian world, Pratchett created the most perfectly necessary world ever: Discworld.

Each and every Discworld novel is a masterpiece. It is written to hold a mirror up to our own lives, to use exaggeration and sarcasm. It brilliantly conceals all manner of truths in incredible fun. As an example, “Going Postal”. In it, the main character invents postage stamps and stamp collecting. It’s such a riot that you don’t realise it makes incredibly valid points about economics and the fact that currency (and stamps) are basically a construct of collective agreement with no intrinsic worth.

In 2007, Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, in one of the cruellest tricks ever played on humanity. He spent his last few years campaigning for research into dementia and also championing the right to die.

Mister Teatime had a truly brilliant mind, but it was brilliant like a fractured mirror, all marvellous facets and rainbows but, ultimately, also something that was broken. (Hogfather)

There are many characters that turn up again and again in Discworld books: Commander Vimes of the Nightwatch; the scheming Patrician; the wizard Rincewind; the Hogfather (basically Father Christmas as a pig), too many to name. All of them are recognisable, from the lowly returning characters such as dodgy merchant Dibbler to the very Gods of Creation themselves.

A few days ago, he got to meet his greatest creation. For me, and for many others I suspect, his best recurring character is Death.

Many people die in these books and Death is always there to collect them.

Death is a fascinating character. He never gets why people are unhappy to see him. After all, he’s not responsible for the fact they died, he’s just there to shepherd them to the next stage, according to their beliefs.

He asks questions of the people he meets . He wants to learn and grow. He has a granddaughter called Susan. He does his job. He is a brilliant personification of a non-person, a humanifying of our fear of all-too-human process.
In the books, when death speaks, he speaks all in capital letters. Pratchett Fans know and love those capital letters. When the Tweet announcing his death broke, every fan’s heart stopped. We all understood this:


Incredibly poignant. And yet we should remember that all his books are. When they are being silly, inventive, wild, fanciful, silly again, romantic, mystical, they are always underscored by poignancy. Discworld truly was, and is, a mirror that we should all glance into.

As a hack writer of this unimportant blog, I would never have taken the chances I have without his example. And importance is not important, the process is. The taking of the chance. I can’t think of another human activity where we really do stand on the shoulders of giants.

So thank you, Sir Terry Pratchett.

And of course, we all know who must have the final word.


Tea and Life

What Tea Tasters Can Teach Us About Our Political Viewpoint

Some of us are vitally interested in politics. I’m one. I vaguely remember, from my childhood, reading in a Robert Heinlein book that the alternative to politics is war, so it seems like a good thing to take an interest in.

I just did a US political compass test and it told me I was slightly to the left socially and a little conservative economically. I then did an Australian one that told me I was a centrist socially and slightly right-wing economically.

It’s a good thing to be so central, I think, as it gives me much more scope to offend both sides, which obviously is twice the fun. (When it comes to tea, though, I’m obviously hard core.)

So, to skip to the second part of my subject today, what does an expert tea tasting look like? Here’s an up to date report from the Boston Herald, November 1886:

A big round table of considerable solidity, which whirls easily on a pivoted center. Temptingly set about the edge of this revolving table one observes an array of teacups more or less aesthetic in mold and adornment, according to the “style” of the establishment…A generous teakettle is stuck somewhere in a convenient corner, and it keeps up a pleasant purring over the patient gas jet

Yes, a stack of teacups and endless tea. Sounds lovely.
But it’s not just tasting unlimited cups with a few cucumber sandwiches on the side. Technique is involved, and here’s an important idea in tea tasting: the over-brewed tea.

When expert tasters drink tea, an overbrewed version quite often highlights subtle imperfections. So a tea that tastes fine in normal conditions – or maybe not great but for indistinct reasons- can have its flaws exposed in this method. And even a tea you like that tastes great can have small flaws highlighted this way.

So, how can you do this with politics? Well, people half do this all the time!

By tuning into media sources that agree with our own political viewpoints, we can amplify the good things about our own beliefs, and hear about what those terrible folk at the other end of the spectrum do/say/believe. It’s a pretty well established thing to do.

The other option is to tune into the lunatic fringe of the other side. The guys who have no rhyme or reason, who will just publish/broadcast  anything. Clearly false information, conspiracy theories, outdated stories. It makes us feel good to laugh at those cretins.

But to take a leaf from the tea taster’s book, what if we start to watch/read media sources that broadly agree with each of us, but are more extreme? More exaggerated. More nonsensical, if Social Media is a way to judge “old school” media (and it is). There’s plenty of it.

Overbrewed media can teach us the subtle flaws in our own arguments, can challenge our assumption that it’s us versus them. And it doesn’t have to be overbrewed very much to be really, really interesting.

Sunday mornings I watch two political TV shows, one striving for the middle ground but falling to the left, one proudly conservative. I learn different things from each.

And the more of an agenda an article has, the more it informs. If there’s a news story that has ten aspects, and the “overbrewed version” highlights six and ignores four because they don’t fit the narrative, then I concentrate on what they don’t say. Why does it not fit the narrative? How does it weaken their arguments? Indeed, how does it weaken my arguments?

It’s easy to get caught up in us versus them, to suggest that one side is the side of angels. For a business, sometime we want to show our support for one side or another, or one cause. Not always: remember, Colonel Tom Parker made a lot of money from “I Love Elvis” badges, but also sold plenty of “I hate Elvis” badges.

Listening to the other side gives you an insight into where your arguments are weak. It gives you an idea of what they don’t want to mention. And listening to the outliers on “your own side” does the same. And it also shows where they want to spread confusion and untruths.

To swing the argument back to tea to close on, if I go past a tea shop that offers tastings, I taste everything I can. (This often applies even if I have to buy multiple cups). And when I find myself in places where they mix two or more of their teas together in the one tasting – notably Teavana in the US or T2 (Liptons) in Australia – its obvious that they’ve taken a leaf from insincere political hacks who confuse and conflate concepts and information because their poor quality ideas can’t stand up on their own.





Satire, Tea and Life, Tea History, Tea Stories

Fine Words Butter No Parsnips

A small intro, before the main event.

I’ve always loved the saying “Fine Words Butter No Parsnips.” On a whim I decided to use it as a blog post title, with no idea what to write about. And then, on another whim, decided to challenge a few dozen other tea bloggers to use the same title, this week. I hope that many of them are linked in the comments below.
It also came to my attention that tea blogger @lahikmajoe – Ken McBeth Knowles – has actually used this as a blog title in the distant past. Well done, Ken.

So, I thought of all the clever metaphorical ways to build the saying into a blog post, and in the end, decided to just cheat with a serious of fictional pieces about actual parsnips, left unbuttered. I don’t know if that is necessarily a great idea, but it’s a bit too late in this whole process to be worrying about that.

So, where were we? Buttering parsnips, that’s where we were…

I recall, back in about 1630 or thereabouts, we were gathered in the scullery, it was the maids, the valets and I, and the butler was giving us a right dressing down.
“Her Ladyship is absolutely livid, and I am also inclined to be of that state. And I expressly know who it is that is burdened with the responsibility for this calumny.”
Over the rim of my cup, I saw him swivel his head to stare directly at me. And point.
“You. You are the responsible party, Sir.”
I thought it best not to respond.
“You take to spending all of your time with that cup in your hand, drinking that Chinee muck, and now, we’ve run out of butter. There be enough milk to be churned, but are you churning it? No!”
He narrowed his eyes.
“You speak of churning. You speak of the finest of butters. But when? After your cup of tay, you say, or maybe after another. And the result: Unbuttered Parsnips”.
I stared into my cup, seeking solace.

Do you remember, Clementine, how you slapped my face in 1662 in the Vauxhall Tea Gardens? When you opened the picnic basket and found just empty teacups?
And yet, what was so wrong of my plan? Sure, I had promised a salmagundi, some collops, some bread, some eggs, some buttered parsnips. But then I thought of another plan, to wander arm in arm, sustaining ourselves on the sweet nectar of our love and the vibrant taste of some excellent tea.
And yet, from that moment henceforth, in over 30 years I have never again gazed upon your person, with the memories that press in on me of your hard-set, retreating back as you stalked away, your parasol bolt upright, pointing to the Heavens as though to bring God’s judgement down upon me.

I flicked cigarette ash from the balcony as you confronted me with your anger, your blazing eyes so like the fireworks in the distance. “These men go tomorrow to the Somme. You, of all of us, know the horror that entails. And yet, you refuse to meet with them?”
I knew that speaking would work against me. I chose not to.
“Your fine words, Bertrand? What of them? You write and you write and they hold you up as a hero. As a war correspondent. As the man who tamed whole Boer regiments and now holds the nation spellbound with his typewriter.”
“And yet, when the time comes to meet them in person and bolster their courage, to firm up their mettle, to add your rich, warmth like best butter to the root vegetables of their raw courage, I find you here.”
“Smoking. Leaning. And drinking your damn tea!”

Winnie loomed up through the gloom of the bunker. He was not impressed.
“What sort of man are you, Browne?”.
I blinked. The question seemed rhetorical.
“I have six secret advisors. Not sixty. Not six hundred. Six. I can count them on one hand, er, … when my hand is holding a cigar. You are part of the most privileged group in Britain.”
“You sit down here, deciding how this nation rations its food. If a man is hungry in Kent, it’s your doing. If a farmer has two spare apples in Somerset, it’s your job to make sure there’s not a housewife in Fyfe, waiting for her husband to come back from a raid over Dresden, who is going hungry.”
“And you write such wonderful reports about the splendid job you are doing.”
He paused and I jumped in.
“Winnie, old chap… I…”.
The pause ended, and if anything, he looked more apoplectic.
“Don’t you ‘Winnie’ me, you reprobate, I’m your Prime Minister. And here’s the evidence I am putting to you.”
“This chit is for an entire crop of parsnips that should be in Dorking. They are in Colchester”.
“And this one is for a shipping container of butter, also bound for Dorking. But for some reason, in a barn in Flintshire”.
“Any idea what you were doing whilst these vital supplies where going astray?”
I merely shook my head.
“Well, here’s a clue. It’s a docket for a delivery of 100 pounds of tea.”
“And the delivery address is your house”.

I remember Johnny’s face when we found this place. Hidden away, no-one knew it was there.
He convinced Leslie, who had just inherited it from her grandparents, to drop out of college, to join us. And to sign the the house and gardens over to us.
Johnny’s buddy got all four of us into the Winterland, not to see Chuck Berry, who was headlining, but the opening act: The Grateful Dead.
After the Dead finished, we were buzzing and we walked and walked and walked.
And then we were here. The old house. The stables. The fields. The walled-off garden. And so help me, two cows.
That spring, we worked as we’d never worked before. Heck, most of us had never worked before.
We collected the milk and drank it, we churned some into butter.
We planted vegetables. Johnny had this theory that planting them all together worked best, so we had cabbages and tomatoes and broccoli and carrots and parsnips all in joyously contrived spirals and pentagrams. As the plants came forth, it was less about food and more about art.
But the loving care that Johnny took was part of the charm, and before long, the original four had swelled to a dozen or so.
And then, after a trip down to Ashbury, Johnny bought home Mandy.
Mandy bought a new emphasis. On loving everyone, all the time. All night, all day.
And she also bought with her huge quantities of acid. Her brother was the main man in the Haight-Ashbury area, it seems.
I never took it, I never wanted to be that out of control. And I tired of Mandy in no time.
But Johnny? Johnny seemed to melt. He tripped. He stayed tripped.
And in between, he sat in the garden, staring at the vegetables. Staring at the remaining cow after one perished when a tripper let it out on the road.
Johnny was our guru. When Johnny’s infectious energy had been stilled, all of us lost ours as well. Whilst the others tripped, I drank oolong. Endless cups of ooling, while the vegetables rotted into the ground and the milk remained unchurned.
By the time the Dead returned to play the Carousel a year later, Johnny had faded, the dream was over, and I went back to college to become a teacher.
Oolong remains my only connection to those days so long ago.

I sipped my Lord Petersham as I waited for the others.
Silently they filed in.
“It’s a decade and a half since we formed this company, just before the new millennium kicked off” said Connor, looking around the table.
“And we’ve survived downturns – in fact we’ve thrived as we’ve bought up distressed farmers and agri-businesses. We’ve never let a division go under.”
“But the butter business is no longer sustainable. We have to cut them loose. I’ve found a buyer out of Argentina to take it a good price. And sadly, this means Dennis will be leaving the Board, and the company, as his division folds.”
I wanted to object. I wanted to say that we promised those villagers jobs when we tore down half their village and replaced it with processing plant a few years ago. I wanted to point out that Dennis had dedicated every waking moment to the Company, at a terrible personal cost. But I am a coward, and my own division of vegetable growing would be safe, I hoped.
“This then gives us a problem with our line of roasted, buttered and frozen vegetables. We can’t afford them without the cheap butter.”
He looked at me: “Sorry, Christina, you’re out.”
I looked and listened, but no-one would catch my eye, and no-one uttered any fine words to save me.

I’m now the oldest, and since Boris passed yesterday, the only one on board who saw old Earth.
The children of the Ark gathered at my feet. Their parents and their grandparents, and in some cases great-grandparents, were born out here, in the vastness of space, as we sped toward our new home. A new home still two dozen years’ distant, a new home I doubted I’d see.
It’s my duty now.
I spoke of Earth, and how we had corrupted it. And how we few were all that were left. Of the war of 2115, and how there was nothing left to fight over. And no way to live upon the once green surface.
“But we have hope.”, I finished staring at children ranging from rapt to bored. “We have cargo holds full of hope”.
“We have the DNA of trees and plants and animals. All of them. Well, most of them.”
“And when we arrive, we will bring forth such a paradise, where people learn to love each other and the planet.”
“And we will no longer live off nutrient-dense ship’s rations, but grow things under the sun and in the soil.”
“Whilst we gaze upon the forests and the antelopes, the farms and the horses, the carefully built cities and the endless plain, we will live, and love, and be content.”
“We’ll sip tea, and munch on buttered parsnips, and tell the stories we need to remember.”

Tea and Life

The Elongated and Meandering Tea Road***

Sometimes, you just need a bit of a review. Am I doing what I set out to do? And do I care?

As I sat down to get a bit of a start on post number 266 to this blog – that would be this post – I looked through a few stats.

  • 265 posts since Feb 7th 2011 on this blog.
  • About 30 posts to other blogs since that time.

So, I wonder what it is about this blog that keeps me coming back? And, have I achieved my aims? What were my aims?

Here’s the first, and shortest, blog I ever posted here in its entirety.

Why, Oh Why?
Ok, so I have a blog. And a bunch of videos.

The thing is, tea is fun, and fascinating, and can be very light-hearted, as well as heart-lightening.

So outside of my very serious blog, and my informative videos, I need a space to have fun.

I mean, three billion cups are drunk everyday. Someone somewhere is having fun. Whether it’s a Tibetan with the traditional brew with added salt an rancid yak butter, or some poor unfortunate soul that thinks teabags are acceptable, fun can be added to every cup.

So, let the fun begin…

So, that was the idea. A bit of less serious fun. I’d discovered Tea Trade via Twitter and wanted to give it a go. At the time, my “serious” tea blog had about 10 posts. (It eventually had one more.) And my serious-ish non-tea blog had about 30. (It’s had two since.) I was a tea video-blogger, but that sort of died away.

Post number two started with some light banter, but then settled down into what it really was – a eulogy and a comment on the transitory nature of life.

Are we having fun yet? Not according to the touching comments.

The third one is just a memory piece. Not great art. Not memorable in itself, but the theme of tea and memory, occurring in posts 2 and 3, is one I never seem to tire of. Again, some of the comments are lovely.

The ‘fun’ kicks in about post 5, with an anti-chamomile rant.

Then Post 6 is where I declare that I am moving all my tea blogging to this site. I even give a round-up for what some people might have missed, in a very generous and giving- or ego-maniacal – way, depending on who is telling the story.

And then it starts. A massive rant, Cafe Quackery: The Great Tea Bag Rip-off.

To some people, my defining post. I’d already made a video on the topic.

So, I was searching this stuff out to see what had changed. And there are a few things.

  • My friend Rick suggested I start video blogging. My witty wife came up with the answer to one issue: My identity. “Robert Godden” was a lousy name for a fearless tea video blogger. So she created “The Devotea” . So I adopted that name. And then started referring to her on this blog as “Mrs Devotea” to protect her anonymity. And then promoted her to “Lady Devotea”  as she has too much class to be anything else… and then we launched “The Devotea” as a tea brand. And people started reacting as though the brand was me, and not the pair of us. So I renamed myself “Lord Devotea”, because I’m married to a Lady. Are you still with me?
  • I used to just use tea as an excuse to write about whatever the hell I want. Oh, hang on, that one’s not changed.
  • Fun is great, but it is no longer mandatory.

But some things haven’t changed. It’s still Lady Devotea, and I, and tea, against the world!

But the unexpected thing I found, looking back on those posts from about four years ago, is the generosity of people willing to comment. It’s never wavered.

And I am extraordinarily proud to say that of the first 10 people to ever comment, we have now met 6. In London, in Melbourne, in New York, in Virginia, in Las Vegas. And so many more people in so many more places.

What I failed to mention in the first blog was that blogging makes you strong, lasting friendships, untroubled by distance. and so I’ll sip my Lord Petersham* and finish this piece knowing that our friends will be glad** to see it turn up in their Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed.


*Just snuck the tea in there

** Could be that  “generous and giving” vs “ego-maniacal” situation again.

*** I could have used a Paul McCartney song title as my blog title, but he’s a bit of an embarrassment these days. Also he’d probably send me a bill.

Tea and Life

Quote Me On That

I had an idea for a blog, and here it is. Unusually, it relies on other people.Leo_Rauth_Five_O'Clock_Tea with quote

Ten years ago, any reference consulted would come up with the same dozen quotes about tea. Ignoring Eleanor Roosevelt,  as she explicitly mentions bagged tea, or actually worse, is all about the bag, you get a bit of Samuel Johnson, CS Lewis, maybe some Lu Yu, maybe some Jerome K. Jerome for the adventurous.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone out of my way to actually invent some quotes. Many of them were put in boxes using a tool that is sadly a victim of the recent malware attack on Tea Trade, the site that hosts this blog, although they live on over at Pinterest.

Now, some of mine are a little strong for general consumption and convey some of my own beliefs quite firmly – such as:

“A paper bag, a staple and a piece of string are a much a part of a great tea experience as ritual disembowelment is part of a successful figure skating routine”

Some are quite pithy:

“You have one teahole and two ears. The more tea you drink, the more you will listen and the smarter you will become.”

And one gets a lot of attention:

“It is tea time right now, somewhere. Or anywhere.”

Anyway, my idea was to just ask people on Facebook and Twitter what their favourite tea quotes are, to see if the old staples came up. To make it interesting, I suggested people could also just quote themselves.

Straight away, one author came up. Three times in the first four quotes. The author? Not Lu Yu. Not Robert Fortune. Not even me. But the incomparable, unbeatable genius of the late, lamented Douglas Adams.

Tea Blogger Nicole Martin threw this one at me:

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic examination of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

And my Facebook friend and Jim’s Caravan lover David Willanski added:

“No,” Arthur said, “look, it’s very, very simple…. All I want… is a cup of tea. You are going to make one for me. Now keep quiet and listen.”

And he sat. He told the Nutro-Matic about India, he told it about China, he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun. He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons on the lawn. He told it about putting the milk in before the tea so it wouldn’t get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the East India Trading Company.

“So that’s it, is it?” said the Nutro-Matic when he had finished.

“Yes,” said Arthur. “That is what I want.”

“You want the taste of dried leaves boiled in water?”

“Er, yes. With milk.”

“Squirted out of a cow?”

“Well in a manner of speaking, I suppose…”

“I’m going to need some help with this one.”

And to top it off, Nicole chimed back in with:

“A cup of tea would restore my normality.”

In amongst the Adams-fest, Blogger Nami Rosen threw in one of the classics:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis

And then there were a few originals. Annelise Pitt of Thistledown Cozies went with:

“I like my men like I like my tea – hot and loose.”

And Julia Arrasmith-Matson of Bingley’s Teas skipped the chance to throw a Jane Austen quote in and went with one of her own, the thought provoking

“Tea needs nothing from me”

Over on Twitter, a traditional Chinese thread was happening. Tea Blogger Eleonora Byron added:

“Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.” (Ancient Chinese proverb)

Not to be out-Chinesed, Julie Mitchell offered:

 “Tea is the Elixir of Life.” (Lao Tzu)

And then added:

“All you need is tea and warm socks.” (not sure who said that one)

I hadn’t heard it or had any idea who said it, and found out that it’s actually the name of a blog set up as, well, let’s say a fan site, as opposed to a bit of a shrill, for a large tea company.

In other words, someone doing what I’ve tried to do at times, leverage tea sales off an original quote.

I was contacted by a chap called Jace Lion Repshire. His original contribution, a nice little pun is really good:

“Steep With One Eye Open”

Well, I’m almost there, but I’m going to finish with quotes from three ladies who add a lot to my tea drinking experience: Firstly, let’s go with Verna L. Hamilton. A blogger and author, Verna pours out tea-infused motivational quotes at a frenetic rate. The way she writes – and I’ve heard her speak live – always make me feel she has no concept of “low key”. When reading a quote by Verna, it’s best to find a mirror and shout it at yourself for the full effect. And the quotes come daily, although it sometimes feels like hourly.

Here’s the one I’ve gone with:

“Good morning good #tea people! Devoting energy/effort to a fruitless pursuit is like drinking tea out of a cracked cup. Do better. #DrinkTea”

In order to calm down from that experience, it’s best to turn to artist and tea poet Jo Powell-Johnson. Jo’s site Scandalous Tea Blog is also hosted on Tea Trade, and the result is that thousands of images have been lost, many showing her wonderful jewellery and offering inspiring poetry. Luckily, I wrote one down a while back:

“Weathering the storm, wrapped in the warmth of the brew, blanketed by leaves”

This has been quite an interesting blog to curate and collect, rather than write. Over the course of it I have drunk two teas from The Devotea : an Iced Fleurs de Provence and a hot Apple & Cranberry White Tea Concoction. The latter was developed by the inestimable Lady Devotea herself, and so as I reach the end of the cup, I’ll leave it to a quote by her to finish us off:

“The very making of a cuppa is cathartic, and the drinking of it can transport us to tea fields distant” (Anne Drury-Godden/Lady Devotea)

So, I’ll see you all soon in tea fields distant.


Tea and Life, Tea Stories

Random Thoughts of a Tea Stained Mind

Sitting here, I’m considering my commitment to blogging at least once a week. Throughout the week I collect ideas, some of which I jot down, some of which take off like wildfire and some of which I forget.

I could have skipped it, because last week I released two, one a poem on Beasts of Brewdom, which I now need to fix up.

Why? We’ll discuss that later.

Next week’s blog post will be an absolute ripper, as we say in Australia. But (a) I am waiting on contributions from others and (b) I’ve said that before.

So, as I sip my second tea for the day – a Lord Petersham to follow the Doke Rollin Thunder I had first up today, I consider the ideas I have for today’s blog.

Speaking of Lord Petersham, my first idea was to run a detailed keyword analysis to see if the fact that our tea was named after him made any difference to the level of interest in this basically forgotten Regency nobleman. Interestingly enough, Google groups together “Lord Petersham” with “Earl (of) Harrington” (his actual title once he acceded to it later in life) and the mysterious “Lord Stanhope” which mixes his title with his surname.
I found that as a percentage of the times searched, ‘Lord Petersham’ has gradually become a bigger percentage of the group. Which is exciting news, but not earth shattering. Not whole-blog-worthy.

So, I then considered my second idea: when does big become bad?

We’ve got the opportunity to snatch a little business from one of the truly massive tea companies – one of the top 3 in terms of revenue. If we were to win this business they would hardly notice, but it would be important to us.

It got me thinking: most tea companies start out small. And idealistic. Most stay that way or wither away. Some become moderately medium sized. Some grow quite successful and large. And some become behemoths.

In tea, most of the very large companies have several characteristics: poor tea, exploitation, commoditisation of tea into basically a delivery mechanism for tasteless stained water.

And my thought was: where is that point? Where does passion for tea become passion for profits?

A great idea for a blog, but I realised I actually don’t have an answer. If I find one, then I might blog on this at some stage.

And then, during the week whilst coming up with ideas, something very bad happened.

Our hosts, Tea Trade, were hit with several waves of Malware attacks, as well as significant spam attacks. And one of those attacks hit home.

Tea Trade is a site that means a lot to many people. At its heart are Jackie and Peter Davenport, who conceived it, built it and keep it going as a labour of love.

There’s always new sites, new technologies. Fads come and go. Users come and go. People I used to talk to via Tea Trade’s messenger I now just chat to on Facebook. Great tea bloggers no longer blog on tea.

But Tea Trade is there for us. For us, it hosts the satirical Beasts of Brewdom, it hosts the international hub that sends our customers to their local distributor, and it hosts this blog. A blog that has currently 263 posts over about five years. A blog that obviously means a great deal to me.

Over that time, we’ve visited Spain, and the UK and the USA, and on each occasion have met with firm friends we first met on Tea Trade. You know who you are. In fact, the whole Tea Trade community knows who they are.

What means even more is that on our American soujourn, we accepted an invitation to stay with Jackie and Pete. They threw open their home to Lady Devotea and myself: a scary thought if you’ve read me at my rantiest. We have many fine memories of the USA, but none more so than sitting at their kitchen table, talking all night in our refusal to admit that we might have to leave when the sun arose.

So, I’m going to end my thoughts here-ish. I have a fair bit of work in fixing problems with our sites, re-adding pictures that have been lost, realigning oddly arranged poems, all sorts. Work I’m going to do without complaint.

Sure, we could have moved our blog elsewhere. Many times it has seemed to make sense.

But nothing is more important than friends and community: Tea Trade is both.

Pete and Jackie are working tirelessly to bring Tea Trade back to full functionality – and it looks like they are almost there.

I ask all my readers to raise their teacup to Tea Trade, truly a pivotal touchstone in the building of our tea bloggers community, and to Jackie and Peter, pioneers and friends.




Satire, Tea and Life, Tea Stories

The Teapot of The Covenant

As I may have mentioned in passing on my 27 squillion tweets, plethora of Facebook rants or even within the hallowed walls of this prestigious blog, I have quite a Shania Twain attitude to religion: It don’t impress me much.

Much like Ms. Twain’s grammar, pretty well all religion is questionable. Sure, the Buddhists say a few nice things. There’s a considerable amount of people who help people less fortunate than themselves citing religious motivation. And the Hare Krishna’s have an incredible array of excellent vegetarian dishes.

But sadly too much of it is either just plain irrelevant and stupid (Zen Koan, anyone? “What is the sound of a zebra’s stripes?”) or far far worse, a simple and simplistic excuse for the very worst of humanity: “My God is better than yours, and here’s a hand grenade to show what an excellent and well-reasoned basis I have for believing this.”

Usually on the subject of religion, I confine myself to taking the names of various deities in vain- “For God’s sake, hand over that vanilla slice”,  “By Jupiter, I’ll wager that’s going to make a fine cup of tea”, “This is an exceptional sponge cake, by Vectron’s Purple Toothbrush Holder” and so forth.

One of the weirdest texts around is something called “The Bible”. It is a collection of anecdotes, many of which are demonstrably inaccurate: conversations between two people that the historical record shows lived 500 years apart, for example.

The way it was put together is like this: imagine you run a short story competition entitled ” A cool thing that happened a few hundred years ago”. And you’re not allowed to use the Internet, you need to base it solely on the stories your father told you about his father’s father’s father, who happened to be in a nearby café when the trial/stoning/crucifixion/sermon/wanton act of lust took place.

You send it to a judging panel of learned men in pointy hats who are busily accumulating great wealth and suppressing the ordinary folk, and they pick the ones they like, stick ‘em all in a book and use words like “testament’ and “gospel” to reinforce the fact that they have decided it’s now true.

Then a millennium and a half later, the book gets translated from a translation of the original, and put into a modern context and setting, in exactly the same way that Romeo and Juliet became West Side Story, except the King James Bible has less catchy tunes.

So, we have a bit of a dog’s breakfast. (Sadly, a dog’s breakfast without any tea in it.)

Many people decide to live their lives roughly along the lines of this book, using it as an allegory, a cautionary tale. Such as “Jesus wants me to be nice to people, so I’ll be nice to people”.  That’s OK. “It also says you should discriminate against people with poor eyesight, but I won’t”. Another healthy choice, in my opinion.

However, there are also people to whom a simile is like a will-o-the-wisp, a metaphor is as unknown as a drowning beagle reciting Keats and an allegory is a kind of crocodile. These are the literalists, the people that believe that a 20th century interpretation of the third rewrite of a 16th century translation of various 4th century texts in four different languages based on oral histories of events 1000 to 300 years previously is the exact word of their particular God, right down to the last divine semi-colon.

Phew, I don’t know about you, but I regularly find myself in the supermarket having completely forgotten what I came for, so I’m not sure my 300- to 1000- year long-term memory is entirely reliable. But not these literalists: for them, the Bible they have in their hands is the literal word of God. Literally. Not figuratively. They literally figure it’s the literal, non-figurative word of God.

There are others, of course, who have a Holy Book and treat it in the same manner, often to horrific effect. But this story is about Ron. And Ron was a literalist.

On TV the other day was an excellent TV special “Raider Ron and The Lost Ark”.

Ron Wyatt was a self-appointed archaeologist and actual anaesthetics nurse, who claimed many discoveries. All of these discoveries happen to support the literal interpretation of the Bible, and would be excellent evidence thereof, if there was any actual evidence of the evidence.

Sadly, a serious of misfortunes and a few alleged cover-ups by alleged vested interests have allegedly denied him the alleged evidence. Allegedly.
For example, after a few practice dives in a swimming pool back home, Ron and his two sons dived in the Red Sea, and found the best possible evidence of the Biblical tale of Moses parting the red sea – a golden chariot probably belonging to the Pharaoh who was unwise enough to chase Moses and Co. across the parted seas. Full marks to Ron for finding this within ten minutes of diving, after 2000 years’ worth of Red Sea divers failed to spot it. Unfortunately, Ron by this time was very sunburned, so they returned to their hotel, where they discovered that the camera that they had used to document this find had “got drowned” according to Ron’s son.

After becoming a champion against the conspiracy that the fossilised remains of Noah’s Ark is really just a geological structure – a silly idea believed by as few as 99.999% of people who understand such things- Ron decided to go after the big one – The Ark of The Covenant.

For those who skipped both the Book of Exodus and Raiders of The Lost Ark, this is a storage unit (Ark from the Hebrew meaning chest or little cupboard) with a bunch of stuff in it, the most notable being the stone tablets on which God inscribed the 10 Commandments and then gifted them to Moses, who was sitting about on a mountain top awaiting them. (I believe there was also burning of some herbal substances mentioned in the official reports).

So, quite a decent souvenir. Of course, it hasn’t been seen for a couple of millennia since the sack of the King Solomon’s temple, so Ron needed some help to find it. Luckily, as he was walking through Jerusalem,  he came over all possessed-like, spoke in a different voice and pointed at where a grotto could be found, with the Ark in it. Happens to archaeologists all the time, according to none of them.

Happy Days! Now to just dig it up.

Over the next few years, Ron and his sons dug on the spot, which was on private land luckily, and they had no official permission, what with some Zionist conspiracy making sure the Israeli Government would only give dig permits to people who hold actual archaeological qualifications.

It was basically solid rock, and yet they persisted. Eventually, after several cracks at it, they were at a point where both of Ron’s sons had returned to the US and he was flying solo. He was working on a small hole in a very big rock.

SIDEBAR:Now I must warn you, I’ve written some long and involved blog posts before, where there is little or no mention of tea until way, way down, in a thinly disguised exercise of actually writing about something else. But I think this one sets new standards. Thank you for your patience, teapot arriving shortly.

So, back in his hotel; room, the story goes that Ron was mucking about with a camera, the type you stick in people’s orifices if you are a trained medical professional, as indeed Ron was. He stuck it in his teapot, and he realised that he could use it to peer into the rock.

FB_IMG_13924186342767398IN HIS TEAPOT! That’s the opening I was looking for. And even more exciting, the teapot used in the dramatisation by the actor playing Ron was by the London Pottery Co, and the exact model is our favourite all-purpose pot for 2 to 4.

Yes, we call it “Perdie” after Perdita, the mother in the Disney adaptation of 101 Dalmations. And it’s nice to be able to say that, in some small way, an actor using a prop teapot connects us to Ron. (And also justifies this blog). Right now, every time we make a cuppa with Perdie, we refer to her as “The Teapot of The Covenant”.

In archaeology there is saying “Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack”. Just because no-one’s ever found a discarded sword in a spot, doesn’t mean a mediaeval battle wasn’t fought there. Just because Ron never produced the evidence, doesn’t mean he didn’t find the things he said.

But it isn’t just a stack of failures to provide evidence. It’s dodgy science, sneering contempt for other religions, quoting Egyptology books from 1824 as though they were the most up-to-date interpretations of the facts and incredible leaps of logic through flaming hoops of unlikelihood that make the Wyatt Archaeological Resources site such a hoot.

Ron is no longer with us, his supporters presumably believe he has taken the opportunity to meet with his God and discuss all these things first hand. Of course, if he ended up chatting to Osiris, it might have been a tad awkward.

With his myriad faults, it’s easy to dismiss Ron as a crank, a liar, a conman. It’s very easy to use the tools I have at my disposal: logic, science, evidence, sarcasm. But I should temper that by acknowledging that I too, have a belief system, and that it partly fuels this post.

I think the the world needs its loons and oddballs, because they enliven what could be a very dull time we all have here on Earth. Perhaps I’m being charitable, but I prefer to see Ron Wyatt as a dreamer, and his dreams were so vivid that be truly believed he’d actually seen them in real life.

Tea and Life, Tea History, Tea Stories, Uncategorized

She and He and Tea

Tea has been caught in the crossfire of a battle that is ostensibly between men and women for hundreds of years now.

Why bother, you might ask? You might say “Don’t we have gender equality now? Not only for men and women, but also every variation of gender and sexuality therein. It’s it, like, the law and everything”.

cycling twatWell, here’s a photo I snapped from the TV this week.  It shows a young man by the name of Jack Bobridge who was clever enough to win a stage of a bicycle race in my hometown of Adelaide.
And it shows two attractive young women, provided for the purposes of kissing his cheeks for the big photo opportunity.

Really? This is 2015? Even The Sun, the infamously sexist British newspaper has announced this week that the women they objectify on page 3 will no longer be topless. It’s start, I guess.

Of course, there’s more to it than attractiveness and showing some skin. The world is full of beautiful paintings of women (and men, though that’s not the point) and they all have one characteristic – they offer a multi-dimensional array of expression that The Sun could never have hoped to equal with its basic premise, which is “Mandy is a 36DD cup, here’s photographic proof.”

Returning to professional cycling, which is incredibly testosterone-fuelled (some competitors have actually been identified as injecting testosterone), I’m also going to note that it seems to often be identified with a beverage: coffee. It’s not coffee’s fault, but rather the attitude.

If you can ride a bike for a stupid amount of kilometres and drink a three shot latte, you must be a man. If you are the best in the world at it, you get the double kiss photo to prove your superiority to other men. The women are merely an indicator; a status symbol.

So, let’s turn to what women are doing about it, and where tea is involved. We’ll start in  1674, with an excerpt from the infamous petition against coffeehouses, which served coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and where men tended to hang out with other men:

“For besides, we have reason to apprehend and grow Jealous, That Men by frequenting these Stygian Tap-houses will usurp on our Prerogative of tattling, and soon learn to exceed us in Talkativeness: a Quality wherein our Sex has ever Claimed preheminence: For here like so many Frogs in apuddle, they sup muddy water, and murmur insignificant notes till half a dozen of them out-babble an equal number of us at a Gossipping, talking all at once in Confusion, and running from point to point as insensibly, and swiftly, as ever the Ingenous Pole-wheel could run divisions on the Base-viol; yet in all their prattle every one abounds in his own sense, as stiffly as a Quaker at the late Barbican Dispute, and submits to the Reasons of no othre mortal: so that there being neitherModerator nor Rules observ’d, you mas as soon fill a Quart pot with Syllogismes, as profit by their Discourses”

"Edenton-North-Carolina-women-Tea-boycott-1775" by Attributed to Philip Dawe - Edited from the image file on the Library of Congress website. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“Edenton North Carolina women Tea boycott-1775″ Attributed to Philip Dawe the Library of Congress Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -


There was another landmark instance of tea being involved in equality, and it was by women, but the issue was colonial rights, not gender equality. It was the boycott of British Goods, by women, and the famous Tea Party in North Carolina:

“As we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country, and as it has been thought necessary, for the public good, to enter into several particular resolves by a meeting of Members deputed from the whole Province, it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections who have concurred in them, but to ourselves who are essentially interested in their welfare, to do every thing as far as lies in our power to testify our sincere adherence to the same; and we do therefore accordingly subscribe this paper, as a witness of our fixed intention and solemn determination to do so.”

Whilst it was the Tea Tax Act that precipitated this, tea was not the major issue, although it’s been maligned ever since in certain quarters.

Again, tea was used as a powerful symbol of an idea, and we still speak of another event as “the Boston Tea Party” today, although that term was not created until decades after the event it describes.

So at first, tea was part of the problem. It was mainly drunk by men (brewing it at home was not common or affordable back then) and was part of a system of exclusion of women.

How things changed. By the intercession of people such as Thomas Twinning, a market was created for women to buy tea (or have their servants do it) and brew it at home (or have their servants do it) and serve it to their friends (or have their servants do it).

The next innovations were tea rooms,  but it was in tea gardens where men and women could stroll, converse, take tea and pay court to each other that we see some stirrings  of equality.

By this time, in the mid to late 1800s, tea was no longer the enemy of women, but a neutral if reliable ally.

This changes with the temperance movement.

For much of human history, alcohol was a survival mechanism. Ales and wines protected against drinking the polluted city drinking water, and in many cases provided much-needed calories.
But as both sanitation and water quality improved, sugar became affordable and beverages made from boiling water became readily available, there was a reluctance to leave them behind.

But by the mid 1800s, pubs were in the same position as coffeehouses two hundred years earlier. In the 1600s men were avoiding going home to wine, ale and gin and spending their money and time drinking tea, coffee and chocolate with other men. By the time of the first stirrings of temperance in the 1820s, men were eschewing the tea, coffee and chocolate of home for the ale, wine and gin of pubs and spending their money there, drinking with other men.

It wasn’t just women leading the temperance movement, religion had a place. Early American temperance was more about not drinking whiskey on the Sabbath, and in 1847 the Rev Jabez Tunnicliff started preaching to children in Leeds, UK, on the evils of drink, eventually founding Band of Hope, a charity dedicated to rescuing young people from alcoholism. (It survives today as the drug and alcohol charity Hope.)

But with the exception of suffrage, few political movements are as identified with women as temperance. Indeed, many of the suffragettes learnt their craft as protesters for temperance, and its extreme cousin, the teetotal movement.

We often see in film, scheming women scheming over a cup of tea. It has become a signal of the female who takes charge, who has power or at least wants it. The Queen drinks it, and who’d ever argue with Her Majesty? No-one with any brains. She may no longer have the option of “Off with his head!” literally, but I think she’d be able to do it figuratively any day of the week.

Head into any really expensive tea room, and there’s a fair gender balance. But find a mid level one, putting on a nice afternoon tea, and it’s packed to the rafters with women. I’ve been the only male (other that serving staff) in a room of a few dozen tea drinkers on more than one occasion.

You have to wonder what it is all those women are plotting and scheming over tea and scones. The downfall of men? Peace on Earth? Theoretical Physics? Whatever happened to Corey Hart? Culottes vs Slacks? The enduring legacy of Lord Petersham and the overcoat he invented?

Probably all this and more. Although there’s one thing I’ve never overheard in a tea shop.

I’ve never heard women discussing their life’s ambition to kiss a sweaty, Lycra-clad, testosterone-fuelled cyclist.