Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts

"In which life's eternal questions are ignored in favour of a cup of tea."

Category: Tea History (Page 1 of 6)


Sweet Teadom

Well, here we are in Penang, Malaysia, and I spent yesterday drinking plenty of tea.

My Lady and I had decided to get a good night’s sleep (you can translate that as ‘arrived near comatose’ if you like) and so my first tea -a Finbarr’s Revenge from our own supply- got things cracking for me about 3.30am, which is 5am Adelaide time. Of course, that’s what happens when you travel, even if the hungry cat that normally wakes you up is 6000 kilometres away.

After penning yesterday’s blog and reading some Chesterton, I accompanied Lady Devotea as we descended into the madness that is the buffet breakfast at any large resort. While the buffet tables were chaotic, our table overlooking the Malacca Strait is one of the more memorable breakfast spots.

I discovered a percolator-style pot marked “teh telak” and asked a passing waiter to explain. “Tea from India” he said. “With milk”.

I’m game.

Imagine some low grade Assam. Imagine stewing  it waaaay too long, then mixing it with a whole heap of sweetened condensed milk. Yes, indeed, it was incredibly delicious. More like a dessert. I’ll be having that most days, I think. It’s either that or a yellow teab*g, and I think we all know where that ends.

So, a history lesson – Penang was settled by Europeans (as opposed to others who had been here for quite some time) a generation before Adelaide. Literally. The founder of Adelaide, Colonel William Light, was the son of Sir Francis Light, who founded Georgetown and was the first Superintendent of Penang. Georgetown and Adelaide are sister cities which  basically means that our taxes pay for city officials to visit Penang, which wouldn’t be so bad if they stopped coming back.

So, first stop Fort Cornwallis, the original seat of British power, right in the heart of Georgetown.

It’s interestingish, but a bit rubbish. It cost RM20 each to get in (AU$7) and once you do, you find a few old structures, a paragraph about each on a stick, and a concrete amphitheatre in the middle where they are setting up for a concert.

So, it’s late morning, hot and the attractions so far are a bit naff.

We then found the Penang State Museum.  To compare it to the SA museum, it’s a tenth the size and whereas back home the museum is free, here it costs 1 ringgit. Yes, about AU30c. Worth it to spend an hour in air-conditioning.

Also worth it because it’s good. Sir Francis Light’s Last Will and Testament, some great artwork, a good background on the various main cultures (Chinese, Malay, Indian) and a cart pulled by dogs. What more could you want?


Chinese wedding section at Penang State Museum”

Here’s what we could want: tea! Lady D suggested a place she had read about. Google suggested two great ones were closer. It’s hot, closer wins.

A fifteen minute walk through narrow streets and sweltering heat, and we are almost there when we spot an unexpected  tea shop.

It’s a pu’er specialist. They have huge quantities of it, but nothing else. Undaunted, we move on, although we start to notice that most of the shops are shut. As indeed, is the first of the tea shops, despite Google saying otherwise. Instead of a well respected Chinese purveyor of tea, we have a roller door.

Why? Well, we didn’t know it at the time, but it’s a surrogate public holiday. The main holiday is on Monday, but many locals take a long weekend at this time.

We are staring to flag, and press onto the second option, a French patisserie and tea shop. We arrive, and see it full of Harney and Sons tea. That will do nicely.

But there’s a problem. Whilst Lady Devotea looks as elegant as ever, the heat and the walk have reduced me to looking like a jazz trumpeter’s second-best polishing cloth. As soon as I walk in, they decide they are full.

Are they full? They have maybe a dozen tables, of which two are occupied. Despite there being no ‘reserved’ signs, they tell us as we don’t have a reservation and are out of luck. I angrily walk out – well, walk into a glass door, which is similar – whilst Lady Devotea helpfully explains to them that while they might have the same tins as Harney and Sons off Broadway in NYC, they might like to consider having the same welcome for weary travellers. Meanwhile I stumble into the street.

We are done in, and there, in front of us, is a mall and a Starbucks. We circumnavigate the lower floor of the mall; hoping against hope, but there is nothing for it: Starbucks it is.

We both have an iced tea of some sort. Lady D’s is based on syrup and arrives immediately. Mine needs to be brewed and takes about 15 minutes longer than it should.

Ahhh, Starbucks. Not content with making low quality undrinkable coffee, they continue to push the boundaries of how low tea can go. No matter where you go in the world, you can rely on them to be uniformly revolting in every beverage they offer.


Yes, Tea Blog

It was shameful. I seriously considered leaving it out of my narrative, but it makes a great contrast to our next option, a mall-ensconced hour later: TEA BLOG!


Red Tea & Lychee: It’s delish!

Hang on, isn’t this a tea blog? No… that’s a tea blog!


Tea Blog tea is “Available in various taste!’

Iced red tea, genuine lychee juice syrup, lychee jelly. Incredibly refreshing, well made. Very moreish.


The local tea

Suitably refreshed, we head back, with a little grocery shopping to pick up some milk. Hang on, what’s this?

We are 3.5 hour away by car from the Cameron Highlands, and here’s the local product. I must get some.

Back in the room, I brew some. It’s very dusty – totally unsuitable for the “lobster” infusers I have bought along, and it’s rather earthy, almost salty.

After a short rest, it’s time to head down to the beach for dinner. I know, it’s a hard life.


“Iced Green tea with Honey”, glass number one.

People who remember our Thai adventure of exactly 5 years ago will remember that I drank an iced sweetened Japanese Sencha out of desperation and actually enjoyed it, So here, “Ice Green tea with Honey” was likely to be similar.

And it was, refreshing, a nicely brewed sencha with not quite enough honey.

Later, at cocktail hour in the lounge bar in front of some live entertainment, I ordered it again, and got an elegant version with lots more honey and a dash of cream, Took it from acceptable to sensational.

So our first full day was done, and in sharp contrast to the day before, there was no horrific scene, and plenty of tea.

About two and a half litres of it, I think. Sure, most of it was sweet, which is not my usual habit.

But as I sit here at 5.39 am, in the warm, with the call to prayer for the faithful echoing across the pre-dawn tropical sea, I don’t think anyone, apart from Weight Watchers and my dentist could argue that it was a very good day; with the promise of more to come.

1001 Nights 6

A Cup of Cultural Cringe

There’s a thing in Australia called the Cultural Cringe, and if you’ve not heard about it, it’s kind of a national chip on our shoulder; an inbuilt inferiority complex when compared to selected foreign cultures.

It manifests in many ways, from TV programming to architecture to education. It even has it’s own Wikipedia page, so you know it’s a thing.

It’s a function of being a colony and also of rapid migration, and I think over my lifetime we’ve gone a fair way toward getting over it. It’s the flip side of the jingoistic joy we feel in the sporting arena when we win internationally, for example when we are basically the winners of every Olympic Games ever, adjusted for population.*

As an Australian, I think we have a choice: to lose the cringe and just enjoy our diversity and the fact we do draw from every corner of the globe, and take part in “the most successful multicultural society on Earth”***

Of course, one can enjoy, or one can rant, and I know my audience well enough that all this boundless goodwill will leave you, Dear Reader, wondering where it’s going to all blow up. Soon, I assure you.

To me, tea drinkers and the tea industry are quite prone to some cultural cringe of our own. There are many examples, such as elevating sitting on your backside looking at a single blossom on a twig in a jar whilst someone in a kimono pours you two tablespoons’ worth of horrid tea and you contemplate the true meaning of the seventeen winds of austere reflection of self-discipline and inner joy (AKA Japanese Tea Ceremony) over sitting on a chair having a fruit scone or three and a mug of Lord Petersham and gossiping (The Devotea Tea Ceremony****).

To me, the worst of our collective culture cringe is the feeling that we have to define ourselves in terms of other beverages. Most notably coffee, wine or beer.

WHY? A learned scholar has already explained that more tea is drunk than any of these beverages.

And so, we come to what has really ground my gears this week: An article in Tea Journey by Jennifer English.

Now Jennifer is a quality writer, and is certainly more accomplished and knows more about tea than me. But in this case, I find the whole article counter-productive. Assumption is built upon assumption. And the biggest assumption is that the readership of a tea journal somehow thinks that wine is superior to tea. Or even cares about it.

The link I followed started with this sentence:

Think of your personal relationship to wine. When you first discovered wine and how you learned to appreciate it.

Well, I don’t drink it. I don’t like it. I can appreciate it on some level, but at the end of the day, my opinion is that every glass of wine is a chance to have a cup of tea that has gone begging. Jennifer’s lead-in sentence, however, allows no wriggle room. OF COURSE YOU LOVE WINE, it implies. So please, please, like us a bit as well. 

One contention of the article is that in the mid-seventies, one event suddenly catapulted Californian wine into prominence when two of them out-scored two French wines in a blind tasting. The net effect was that everyone suddenly re-evaluated their thoughts on wine: “Zut Alors! I have been blind but now I see! It’s the TASTE that matters.”

And Jennifer opines that now that event is happening for tea, the proof of which is the growth of specialty tea shops and the rise in availability of truly excellent teas for the average punter via the Internet.

I really dislike that comparison. For starters, I don’t buy into the “seismic shift” theory of the 1976 event, no matter how much it suits the Californian vintners to draw that line in the sand. Here’s just one example: my hometown has a little wine called Penfolds Grange (Hermitage). Made since 1951, by 1971 it was consistently beating all comers, including French Wines, at international wine competitions*****.  It’s one of the most collectible wines in the world. Yet we are expected to believe that in 1976, a whole bunch of people thought: “These French wines that have been beaten by an Australian Wine for 5 years have just been beaten by an American one, we better change our thinking”.

I believe Jennifer has a wine background and so has incorporated the “conventional wisdom” into her article, but nonetheless, allowing for the fact that most of us see things through the prism of our own experience, it grates on me. However, I do think there is a comparison to be made.

Look at where wine shops went in the two decades from 1970, look at the uptake of new drinkers, look at how they have successfully wormed their way onto menus and into people’s thoughts by having great products, education of the average drinker and sheer hard work. That is the real comparison, and so I side with Jennifer when she compares the trajectory of wine a short while ago to the trajectory of tea today. I feel it’s not the seismic shift that bears comparison, but the assimilation of better business models and new technology and the dedication of the industry.

I also agree that we now have access to a bewildering array of teas, and within that range there are gems for you to discover.

I hope tea does not go quite down the fashionable road that some wine has, where fashion or celebrity endorsement is a substitute for using your own taste buds, And of course, wine has really not had to put up with being sold as a cure for cancer, shingles, broken legs, obesity, anorexia, dental caries, bad breath, morris dancing, chronic fatigue syndrome, Phil Collins Syndrome****** or dropsy*******.

I am certainly a beneficiary of the online tea renaissance. Just consulting ONE wine tasting guide, it reviews wines from 163 different wineries within twenty minutes drive from our house, whereas the number of tea gardens in the same area is zero. We are lucky that wonderful people from around the world send us tea all the time.

Let’s hope our renaissance also sees, like in wine, a switch from high-volume, low-quality being the only way to make money to  more segments, more niches and the profit margins to match. In my childhood, local wineries made “flagons” of white wine to sell to alcoholics to drink in the park for $2, now they serve snacks on a terrace paired with wine at $25 per bottle and ship crates around the world.

And good on them. We can learn from wine, but we don’t have to be Wine 2.0. Tea is NOT the new wine, any more than wine is the old tea.

But I believe we need to enjoy our renaissance our own way. We don’t need “tea sommeliers”, we need tea experts or guides. I’m going to stick with SFTGPOP1, not “Grand Cru Darjeeling”. And while we’re at it, stop calling Darjeeling “The Champagne of Teas”.  Let’s not get the begging bowl out at wine’s table, lets have our own table. Let’s stop “Please try us, we’re really nice” and move to “Come to tea, if you have what it takes”

I’m yet to see articles on beer, coffee or wine that say “We’re almost as good as tea, please try us” and we need to have the backbone, the authority, the confidence to stop the cringe from our side of the fence.

Let’s stand up for tea. Tea should stride boldly into the room, not trail behind wine, clinging to its coat tails.

Tea, in all its glorious variety, is tea. That is it, in a nutshell. The other beverages and their aficionados can please themselves.

*By head of population, Australia nearly always wins the  most medals at the Olympics, assuming pointless tinpot countries with virtually no population such as Gibraltar, Luxembourg or New Zealand** don’t accidentally win a gold medal. If so,  we change the way we squint at the data.

** Everyone knows that New Zealanders who win anything or get famous for anything automatically get upgraded to being Australians. Even Russell Crowe.

*** Our Prime Minister said that yesterday, so it must be true.

**** well, there’s the next blog post right there

***** Wine Shows OR the Olympics, we win them all on the population argument.

****** Where you crop album covers to disguise your baldness. It’s rare.

******Actually, tea does cure dropsy according to the most recent research from Thomas Povey.


Captain and Capability

Today, I break my self imposed rule against not reviewing teas that are available in markets where they compete with our own, using Douglas Adam’s escape clause in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, where writers for the Guide may not, under any circumstances, offer a review that is against editorial policy “unless they really, really want to”.

The reason for this is that I wish to right a historic wrong, concerning Ms. Jane Austen.

Many people know her as a writer of biting social commentary; not many people know that she was also a budding tea reviewer. No doubt inspired by tea-fueled contemporaries such as Lord Petersham, she started reviewing tea in earnest. However, her sad death and a mixup after her passing led to her reviews being incorporated into a posthumously edited novel “Persuasion”, instead of being recognised as the cleverly imaginative reviews they are.

In particular, Jane was working on a review of Bingley’s Tea’s Captain Wentworth blend. Of course, it’s all the more impressive that the blend was not created until almost 200 years after her death, but it’s long been said she was ahead of her time, so we should suspend all surprise, disbelief or deeply held conviction that I am making all this nonsense up.

Having recently become acquainted with Jane, I have taken it upon myself to fill in the missing information.

So here it is:IMAG0163


By Jane Austen and Lord Devotea

Jane very much wished him to meet Captain Wentworth, and there being no sufficient reason against it, we adjudged it a very fine idea.

Upon opening the packet and meeting the Captain, we were assailed with the odour of fresh rain upon the salted timbers of a very kempt ship, and we stilled ourselves to consider the endeavour we were embarking upon.

“There is a momentary expression in Captain Wentworth’s face, a certain glance of his bright eye, and curl of his handsome mouth”, declared Jane, as we brewed the reddish liquor in a fine china teapot. I concurred, although I also suspected a touch of the rogue between the leaves, both large and small, that twisted and turned within their china universe.

And so we drank, and drank again; deeply imbibing the Captain. Jane, was, I think, as far as she might dare to judge from memory and experience, more in love with him; yet there it was not love. It was a little fever of admiration; with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and it ended all too soon as the last notes of Qimen faded from the memory of our tongues, where the dance of tannin and warmth had so recently culminated.

It was a merry, joyous party, and no one seemed in higher spirits than Captain Wentworth. Jane felt that he had every thing to elevate him which general attention and deference, and especially the attention of all the young women, could do.

The Captain will be welcomed again soon, I am sure. Jane was smitten, although I saw how my own character was considered by Captain Wentworth, and there had been just that degree of feeling and curiosity about me in his manner which must give me extreme agitation.

We are delighted with our new acquaintance, and the visit in general. All that was most agreeable; charming manners in Captain Wentworth, no shyness or reserve; a bold and fearless tea to start one’s day; ready to scale new heights, with renewed energy and capability; invigorated by the Captain, who is a perfect gentleman, unaffected, warm, and obliging.


1846 And All That

I read a lot, when I can. And I often read fiction. And I often read non-fiction. And often, that’s history.

When it comes to history, generally, I like Stone Age through to about 1799.

Why 1799? Well I was born in 1965, so anything that starts with a 19 or even an 18 just sounds too… boring. Not different enough to be interesting, but just to be kind of stuffy and just so… last centuryish. I was born the year Winston Churchill died.

Now, I realise that people who lived through a World War or two, or the Flu pandemic or the Irish Potato Famine or the Great Depression might have found their life and times quite a bit too damned interesting for their liking, but it’s never done much for me.

Except for Art Deco teapots, of course.

Anyhow, I picked up a swag of books without any clear strategy at the library, about 8 of them, and went back for a second after loving one author. So not by design, but just by happenstance, I read these books in this order, with a documentary in the midst:

  • The Strangler Vine, a novel by MJ Carter, set in India in the mid 1830s
  • Dirty Bertie: An English King Made in France by Stephen Clarke. The ONLY reason I picked this non-fiction work about the life of Edward VII is because the front cover proudly boasted “by the author of 1000 Years Of Annoying The French”.
  • The Infidel Stain, another novel by MJ Carter, set in 1842, and the characters from The Strangler Vine have reconnected in London
  • A documentary about Queen Victoria’s Sons came on TV, and as the aforementioned Bertie was one of them we watched it. By a staggering coincidence, the main person interviewed was the historian Miranda Carter, who happens to be exactly the same person as the novelist MJ Carter mentioned above.
  • Butter Cheap and Penny Loaves: England in 1846 in which historian Stephen Bates argues that the events of 1846 shaped the destiny of  England and six other countries including the USA and Australia.

So what had happened, in effect, was that I had jumped headlong into Victorian England, circa 1846. I was immersed in Chartists and Whigs and Tories. There were railways happening, great engineering feats. There was desperate poverty and ostentatious wealth – but then, some things never change. There was Charles Dickens. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, arguably. The second is easier to prove.

The Queen, Victoria, is on record of being terribly anxious to avoid being mad, like all of her forebears in the House of Hannover. That’s a shame, and she was either the maddest of all of them, or just plain appalling. Her Prince Consort, Albert who believed in impeccable manners right up until he rudely died a decade or so later, was a social reformer in public and in private the sort of parent who should have had his children removed.

The delightful Royals family didn’t just run their unfortunate family like a squad of Prussian Fusiliers, they pretty well determined that society should run along their very proper lines. Which is a shame, because that just led to a veneer of respectability and caused a lot of harm.

I’ll pause and wait for you to make the obvious comment: “Where’s the tea in all this?”

Well, one of the main protagonists, Lord John Russell who took over as Prime Minister from Robert Peel in mid-1846 and whose first decision was that the fact that the entirety of Ireland was starving to death was really no big deal, was of the same family as Anna Russell, the lady who helped popularise Afternoon tea and is often mistakenly credited with inventing it. She married the grandson of Lord John Russell’s grandfather. But although this was an appalling decision that changed the world, it’s only very slightly tea related.

But here’s my tea point: Consider the timing: Indian tea was first commercially planted in the mid 1830s. The landing of the first shipment from Assam in 1839 and it’s purchase by Captain Pidding (as described in that classic book The Infusiast, available on amazon) was right smack in this time.

All the tea histories tell us how important this commodity was, at this time.

And yet, does it get a mention? A couple of cups are consumed in the novels, and afternoon tea gets a passing mention in Butter Cheap and Penny Loaves on page 305.

Maybe we’ve got it wrong. Maybe England never was the tea-obsessed culture we think it was. Sure, it was pretty big during the times of high taxation and smuggling, but then forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter.

Or maybe modern historians, raised since the once-proud British cup of quality loose leaf tea was subverted by the shameful slop of a cup of PG Tips teab*g tea, have just missed the point.

I’d recommend all of the books I’ve mentioned. But, just to restore some balance, make sure you imbibe each book with a nice cup of tea on the side.

One Is Highly Unamused

It’s not everyday you turn 90. For most people, it only happens once.

It will happen twice this year for Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, or to provide her official titles, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Her… hey, let’s just shorten the rest or we’ll be here all day:  Queen Of Canada, Queen Of Australia, Queen Of New Zealand, Queen Of Jamaica, Queen Of Barbados, Queen Of the Bahamas, Queen Of Grenada, Queen Of Papua New Guinea, Queen Of  The Solomon Islands, Queen Of Tuvalu, Queen Of Saint Lucia, Queen Of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Queen Of Belize, Queen Of Antigua and Barbuda, and Queen Of Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Her first 90th birthday will be held on April 21st this year. That’s her Majesty’s actual birthday, but her official birthday is in June. Whilst this leads to probably the coldest and wettest public holiday where I live in South Australia, it massively increases the chances that HRH’s UK subjects will have a nice day to celebrate this milestone.

I’ve been somewhat of a monarchist most of my life, though I was very unhappy when Prince Charles issued an edict which effectively prevented one of my favourite comedy teams from providing commentary on the last Royal Wedding, which I thought was a bit rich. After all, he may be the world’s oldest apprentice, but some of the things Prince Charles has said during his long and illustrious wait for a job have been nothing short of comedy gold themselves.

In fact, Australia has a bit of a problem now, because for most of my life it’s been generally assumed that whilst we love the Queen, we might as well dispense with the whole royalty thing once Charles gets the job. This is complicated now by the fact that Prince William, Duke of Cornwall and the next in line, is very popular here, and we might stick with the whole thing if we can have him. And of course, the whole thing is complicated further by Her Majesty’s determination to actually live forever.

Anyway, I want to specifically address one aspect of the celebrations: the “Patron’s Lunch”. 10,000 specially invited guests enjoying lunch outside Buckingham Palace next June, being organised in the belief that it won’t rain that day.

Marks and Spencer, a grocer I have a fair bit of time for, are providing a “wicker basket lunch”. Obviously, at $A310 per person, they just can’t call it a picnic, can they?

There’s a bit of controversy as one of Her Majesty’s grandsons seems to be taking a chunk of cash to organise the whole shebang, but to be honest, that’s not bothering me. I’m a great believer in tradition, and what could be more historically accurate than minor semi-royalty leveraging their positions for a spot of cash?

No, I have a problem with one of the items in the wicker basket. Namely, PG Tips teab*gs.

It is to the eternal shame of the once great tea drinking nation of Great Britain that, in the same year as young Princess Elizabeth was crowned, the teab*g was introduced to the UK. Not by the aforementioned PG Tips (Brooke Bond), but by Tetley, their main rival.

In the years that followed, the UK has lost an Empire and a taste for good quality tea, and gained a Commonwealth and a taste for teab*gs.

Nevertheless, I beleive it is completely outrageous for any sort of official celebration to be using teab*gs. They are supposed to be honouring someone for 90 years, and most of that spent in public service. Quite frankly, if it was a quick afternoon tea to celebrate Johnno the apprentice plumber from the next street’s 22nd birthday, teab*gs would be underwhelming, but this really launches us into the stratosphere of offensive.

When the glorious day comes when people say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and decide that they don’t want paper, plastic, plastic pretending to be silk, string, glue, staples or the delightfully named carcinogen 3-MCPD in their tea, there will be much rejoicing. But we know these future citizens will scratch their heads and say “what”?


“You mean they toasted Her Majesty, with all those titles, with a TEAB*G?”

I might humbly suggest that HRH call upon one of her other positions, such as head of The New Zealand Defence Force or Commander-in-chief- of the Canadian Armed Forces, and have entire squadrons of crack commandos storm the event, removing the offending items, piling them up and applying a flame-thrower, whilst proper tea is served to all and sundry. Lock the offending grandson in the Tower for a few weeks for good measure.

I don’t get the UK’s love of PG Tips. It’s owned by Unilever, the same megalith that gives us Liptons, but for some reason it inspires great loyalty from Britons living abroad. I guess taste is an important memory jogger, but for the life of me I can’t get why this particular taste is worth remembering. Then again, one of Manchester’s other great exports is the band Joy Division, so clearly ‘taste’ means something different in Manchester.

So, on The Queen’s Birthday holiday here, June 10th, I shall probably organise a picnic (under cover) somewhere and trot out some decent tea (Queen Adelaide is probably the one), raise a cup to someone who has I think, honestly done the best job of the job that life handed to her for 90 years.

And quietly fume about what is happening on the other side of the globe.





LP 3

Tea: It’s Not Astrology

As we all know, I never criticise anyone or anything*, but I keep seeing stories about “National Hot Tea Month” and I get rather annoyed.

Let’s tackle just some of the issues.

Firstly, in these internetty days, “National” is  a nonsense. Stop using it for “Days”, “Months” or “Weeks”. It gives no context. Use the name of the country instead.  For example, “NATIONAL Don’t Get Bitten By A Lemur Day” makes no sense if you live in New Zealand, whereas if it were called “MADAGASCAN Don’t Get Bitten By A Lemur Day” you can see that the danger of failing to achieve the aims and objectives of the day are more challenging to Madagascans.

Okay, so I may have made that one up, but it’s a valid point. Promulgators of “Days”, “Months” or “Weeks” need to use a country name, or “International”, or nothing.

For example

  • January 13th is INTERNATIONAL Skeptics Day (it really is. Trust me. Or don’t). That works.
  • Today (January 10th) is Houseplant Appreciation Day. That also works.
  • January 12th is National Pharmacists Day. RED ALERT, THEY ARE DOING IT WRONG!. For starters, there is a chain in Australia called “National Pharmacies”. How are they going to feel when half their staff take a day off after misunderstanding a Facebook Post?

You’ll note that my birthday (April 8th, start preparing now) has been known since 2010 as International Lord Devotea Day, so I do practice what I preach.

Let’s move on to the next issue: Awareness/Appreciation Days are more properly saved for life threatening illnesses or major issues. In Australia, here are the weeks we have gazetted nationally:

  • Australian Heritage Week
  • NAIDOC Week (supporting indigenous people and their culture)
  • National (sorry) Science Week
  • National (sorry) Child Protection Week
  • National (sorry) Literacy and Numaracy week
  • National (sorry) Skills Week
  • and as a bonus: “Safe Work Australia Month”

So, are we really elevating the drinking of tea, hot or otherwise, to the same degree of importance as the protection of children?

And while we are at it: a whole month? Kidney Disease gets a week. Diabetes gets a week. The United Nations International  Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination is only a week! Yet some clowns somewhere – and I think the US Tea Council may be the aforementioned clowns, although I note that the Canadians have also got into the act – have decided “Hot tea” deserves a whole month.

So, having tackled “National” and “Month”, let’s back up to “Hot”.

Who the bloody hell are the US Tea Council to decide that January is the best time for their shabbily-named event? Outside my house, the ambient temperature right now is one that you could brew an oolong at**. And furthermore, I want to live in a world where every man, woman and child can drink tea at whatever temperature they wish, without their choices being questioned.

Brace yourself, people. Brace yourself for a whole slew of articles, selling people on the benefits of drinking tea: You’ll live to 126, you will lose 27% of your body mass, you will win the lottery, you will grow three extra teeth and become irresistible to your preferred gender.

But really, why should we be concerned about people who don’t drink tea? Do we need to proselytise? Are we tea drinkers or some sort of Tea Witnesses? Do we want to knock on people’s doors and share the Good News about Tea?

So, I urge you all to share this: Let’s put the genie back in the box. Let’s acknowledge that there is no month for tea, hot or cold. It’s every day, rain, hail or shine. Do we have a Breathing Week? Do we have a Hydration Month? No. The only thing that I associate months with is astrology, and I’d like to think we want to aim for more credible associations.

EVERY day is Tea Day. Every day you need to consider: Do I have sufficient tea? Have I made enough lovely cups of tea to show my love for those around me? Is there any way I can share the tea love?

Perhaps we could have an “International Tea For The Homeless Week”. Or “Donate Some Tea to The Needy Day”. Or hold afternoon teas to raise money for cancer research.

But “National Hot Tea Month”? They can stick it where the sun don’t shine.

And furthermore, I note that there is a “National Iced tea Month” slated for six months time. You have been warned.

(Note: I am not deriding all those tea vendors, tea bloggers and tea drinkers who are using the alleged ‘National Hot Tea Month’ as a means to promote tea drinking. Far from it. But hey, people, what if we all got together and demanded the declaration of “Universal Millennium For The Consumption of Tea at a Non-Specified temperature”? That’s far more like it)


*I thought I’d start with a joke.

** badly


12 Days of Tea Pairing

As you all know, I am one of the world’s most knowledgeable tea people, and I am also very generous and willing to share my vast brain with less fortunate beings. The same goes with previous generations of Lord Devotea’s. As an example, the third Lord Devotea** assisted a young lady with some tea pairing around Christmas 1895. He obviously helped a great deal, so I thought I’d share it here.


Dear Lord Devotea

One of my suitors sent me a partridge, the dear chap. So I had Cook knock it on the head, stuff it with some pears from a small tree that was also included and now it’s been roasted a treat. Which tea do you recommend to accompany it?

Yours sincerely,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

My felicitations, what a lovely gift! A nice strong black tea is called for. You might even be so bold as to choose a strong, traditional Earl Grey.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

Thank you for yesterday’s advice. The dear man has done it again. This time it was two plump turtle doves, with which Cook has gone for more of a simple sauté, with some wilted greens on the side.

Yours faithfully,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

Yesterday’s advice would work again, as the birds are no doubt also quite gamey, but you may want to consider a notch lighter. Perhaps a simple golden tipped Yunnan would be the best choice.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

Once again, I must prevail upon your good wishes. My gentlemen caller has presented three French hens. Our head Gardener has several of his boys knock up a coop, and we now have some lovely fresh eggs. Cook is planning a dish called Akoori that he picked up during his time in India. Sounds a bit foreign to me. What tea would be best?

Yours thankfully,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

I am always happy to help. Akoori, you say? I know it well. It’s quite spicy. A plain and refreshing white tea, such as that from Doke in India, will cleanse your palate of the more insistent flavours. It is one of my favourite teas, perhaps we should share a pot sometime.

Lord Devotea.


Dear Lord Devotea

Well, there was quite a racket here today as four calling birds turned up. To be honest, I am a bit fed up with poultry. Nevertheless, Cook quietened the birds down with a few well placed blows and before you know it, has created a calling bird soup, with lovage and celeriac. So far, your recommendations have been spot on, I must say, but I think this one is a bit of a head scratcher.

Yours gratefully,

Miss Amy.

Dear Miss Amy

I think you might head into the realms of green tea today. A simple gunpowder will complement the vegetal tones in that soup. I would be only too happy to assist you in the selection and preparation thereof.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

I suspect you were glad to not get a note from me prevailing upon you yesterday. The fine gentlemen broke with his fowl theme and presented me with five gold rings. Of course I was quite touched, and after I despatched my butler to the jewellers to get them melted down and sold, I had a slap up meal at the Savoy.

However today, I became the proud owner of six geese a-laying. I had the garden lads extend the coop, but one of the French hens must have annoyed the geese who set about it and this led to its demise. Cook has whipped up an excellent goose egg and French hen salmagundi. What are your tea thoughts?

Yours contentedly,

Miss Amy

Dear Miss Amy

You do like to set me a challenge. I usually drink one of my own creations, the excellent 1001 Nights, with salads, particularly salads with mint in them. Salmagundi is, in my opinion, one of the finest salads there are, in that it has more meat, less vegetables than most. I hope you enjoy it. It sounds like the sort of meal one would invite one’s great and helpful friends to.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

I’m pulling my hair out now. Frederic, the dear chap, has gone a bit bonkers and suddenly my small lake is full of swans! Cook did himself a mischief trying to grab one for luncheon, and has been carted off to hospital. Assistant Cook claims to be frightened of swans and has instead simply put some leftover salmagundi from yesterday on white bread sandwiches. Honestly, I don’t know how much more I can take.

Yours frantically,

Miss Amy

Dear Miss Amy

We can take pleasure in the simple things in life from time to time, like plain fare and good company. I suggest you ask for a simple single origin Darjeeling, enjoy your luncheon and then have a nice lie down.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

It’s a shame that one cannot send sound instead of words, for I could share with you a mighty confabulation of metallic and wooden thuds, girlish squeals and bovine lowing that is ringing though the grounds. I was all set for a quiet morning with some of my chums, playing a new game called Sphairistiké*** . All of a sudden, in marched eight maids, with stools and buckets; each leading a cow. They arrayed themselves near the folly and began milking. Soon the kitchen was awash with milk. Cook has made pork roasted in milk, something called ‘arroz con leche’ that he learned to make in a Spanish prison – it looks like rice pudding to me – and we’ll be having sour milk cake for afternoon tea for days. 

I can barely keep up. Please advise.

Miss Amy

Dear Miss Amy

It seems you will have cake for many visitors over the coming days. I myself am in the area tomorrow.

The ideal tea with that cake would be a smooth Keemun. This tea would also complement the other dishes you mention, but I think you might also consider a tea blended with a cassis tisane. They are quite popular. I have just sent one to the Millers in Torquay to celebrate the birthday of their young daughter Agatha****. Lovely people, they invited me over for morning tea next week.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

I had no need to write to you yesterday. Not because this procession of gifts has stopped, but simply that nine ladies danced into the estate and continued to dance for hours. After they started collapsing from exhaustion I had the footmen feed them some sour milk cake, revive them with the Keemun you suggested and billeted them in the old servants wing alongside the milkmaids.

Today, it has taken an even more unusual turn, as I can see from my window that a group of ten men are leaping all over the front gardens. I sent the under-butler out to enquire, and it turns out they are a party of minor Lords from some of the less impressive Northern counties. 

I have never had any Lords to afternoon tea, so I would sincerely welcome your rapid advice as to the best form of tea to sate their noble palates.

Yours worriedly,

Miss Amy

My dear Miss Amy

It’s a shame you have not previously thought to invite a Lord to afternoon tea, or you would know that we Lords, that is Lords such as I, tend to gravitate toward Lord Petersham tea. If you are wanting to rid yourselves of these tiresome Northern Lords, however, there is a Japanese tea substitute called Genmaicha which will cause a sudden urge to vomit in anyone with any taste or refinement whatsoever. In fact if any of them actually drink it, I’d question their peerage.

Meanwhile, I shall avail myself of a Lord Petersham in the peace and quiet of my home and gardens, and consider inviting a treasured friend or two to enjoy the serenity.

Lord Devotea


Dear Lord Devotea

 I am at my wits end. Two days ago I thought the Lords might be the end of it, but yesterday 11 men in kilts with bagpipes turned up. During the afternoon it was quite fun, by watching the dancing ladies caper gracefully to the pipes I could almost ignore the Lords a-leaping. However, there was some consternation as one errant Lord leapt straight through the confines of the hen house, leading an almighty brawl after a milk cow, bitten by an enraged goose, trampled on another Lord’s hat and pushed over a maid. 

On top of that, the whole place reeks of milk and the money I made from selling the gold rings is being rapidly eroded by the need to feed 38 people and 25 head of livestock.

Frederic has now sent a dozen drummers. The whole thing sounds like a military tattoo. I have absolutely had enough. Frederic is  coming over this afternoon, and I plan to put my foot down.

I am too upset for any tea. However, If it is not too forward, I would like to invite myself to morning tea at your estate tomorrow. Please say yes, I shall go mad here with all this noise.

Yours with great affection

Miss Amy

My dear Miss Amy

You are most welcome. I shall send the carriage for you tomorrow at 10. I look forward to our morning tea.

Yours in anticipation

Lord Devotea


My dear Lord Devotea

Thank you for all of your wonderful advice, and forgive me for sending you this note via the carriage you were kind enough to send for me. I am unable to come for morning tea as I have great news: I have agreed to marry Mr Frederic. I did so on the proviso that all the post-geese gift could be returned to him, and he has accepted.

The future Mrs Amy Austin*****


Dear Lord Devotea

Your Lordship, I understand you have provided some excellent advice on tea to my future wife. Tomorrow, an afternoon tea to celebrate our engagement will be held.

I have asked my fiancée to wear the five heirloom gold rings which I sent her and she is refusing to do so.  They have been in our family for generations and  I rather suspect my mother may raise the matter. Should this innocent enquiry increase in stature to the frisson of a disappointed look, the weight of a frosty silence or even the horror of a sharp word or two, I feel the whole event may be sullied. Could you recommend a tea to soothe the mood?

Frederic Austin

My dear Mr Austin.

I am afraid you are asking too much of a tea. My best suggestion to you is to have your staff prepare an excellent pot of your very favourite tea, find a quiet spot before the party, and drink it in a calm and unhurried manner, as though you have not a care in the world. I understand you are a composer, perhaps let a simple melody works its way into your head instead of thinking of those rings.

Then, Sir, simply let your mind drift to that moment over the coming year, every time tension rears its ugly head.

Yours sincerely

Lord Devotea



** This dates from when the 3rd Lord Devotea was a young man and prior to his meeting and falling in love with the 3rd Lady Devotea in the aftermath of the 1901 Ritz Cake Scandal. Even if you are a wholly fictitious character, everyone deserves a backstory.

*** Yes, ‘Sphairistiké’ is the name the guy who invented lawn tennis gave it. Amazing the name didn’t catch on but the sport did!

**** Young Agatha Miller went on to grow up, marry a man called Mr Christie, and write a bunch of books. Quite a lot of them featured a Belgian detective who only drank cassis (blackcurrant) tisane. Co-incidence? Surely not!

***** Sometime in the 1800s, Frederic Austin married a lady called Amy. He is a composer most known for “The Beggar’s Opera”, but also the man who added the weird bit around “five gold rings” to the traditional song “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”. Now you know.

Danger Will Robinson

Hidden Dangers: The 10 Side Effects of Green Tea

I get asked a fair few questions on Quora along the lines of: What are the side effects of Green Tea?

To save wasting my valuable time, I’ve decided to offer one comprehensive answer to the question, and hopefully this means that all those people who apparently can ask questions on Quora but can’t actually just Google something can move on to using their time more productively playing Xbox.

So here it is:

Side Effect 1: You will no longer be thirsty.

Yes, as unlikely as it seems, the water content of the tea will virtually strip away that thirst you’ve been working up. So, if you are truly committed to maintaining a level of thirst, you need to avoid green tea and move to say, a delightful glass of popcorn.

Side Effect 2: You may drink less beer, coffee or water.

This is clearly serious. If you’ve been swilling beer, coffee or water for their respective well-known effects of making you look and act stupid, jittery or boring, then drinking green tea may make you lose some of that hard earned reputation. If vomiting in gutters, talking at 1.5 times normal speed or single-handedly supporting the industry that charges you $2 for 0.00001c worth of water is important to you, step away from that gaiwan.

Side Effect 3: You may enjoy a mild boost in productivity.

You know what it’s like. It’s 3pm, and you feel sleepy at work. Of course, you want to go and lay down on one of the comfortable day beds your workplace has provided so that staff can snooze away the afternoon, but be warned: a cup of green tea may make you alert and function more adroitly.

Side Effect 4: You may spend less money

You’ll no longer be able to boast about the money you waste on cappuccinos or Harvey Wallbangers when you are getting four steeps out of a decent teaspoonful of a good green tea, worth pennies. Oh no, what will people think?

Side Effect 5: You might not care about being a hipster

There’s nothing like a three-quarter roast Mongolian Rumpty-Tumpty bean Peaberry semi-soy half-caf to inflame your desire to grow a beard, wear an ironic teeshirt and ride a bicycle, but green tea can instead place you in a meditative state where you don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what you or the people around you are wearing. You have been warned!

Side Effect 6: You may develop annoyingly good taste buds.

Drink too much good quality green tea, and you might find you can no longer tolerate that dreadful crap that comes in teab*gs. You may find yourself insulting a perfectly respectable restaurant that’s just charged you $4 to slop some chlorine-tasting lukewarm tap water into a coffee cup containing a 2c teab*g they’ve bought from a supermarket. This may embarrass your friends.

Side Effect 7: You may have to get new friends.

See side effect 6 above and work it out for yourself. No doubt you can, you smarty-pants green-tea-swiller!

Side Effect 8: You might be mistaken for a super-villain

We all know from movies that the darkest hearted, most ruthless super-villains are always sipping tea just before pressing the button on their world-destroying ray gun, right? So it’s only natural that law enforcement, in the absence of any actual evidence, will just arrest anyone found with a quarter kilo bag of Long Jing. Makes sense, and it’s nice to know they are keeping us safe.

Side Effect 9: Unwelcome prattle

Following several decades of research that shows that many ingredients in green tea have mild therapeutic benefits, as a regular green tea drinker you will be deluged by comments from half-wits who have read articles written by half-wits, who will be keen to remind you that just one cup of green tea cures cancer, herpes, haemorrhoids, death and the hole in the ozone layer.

Side Effect 10: You might suddenly become a communist

Drinking Green tea means you might learn phrases like “Bi Lo Chun”, “Pai Mu Tan” and “Dong Ding”. Before you know it, you’re translating these for your friends. And who speaks Chinese? Commies do, that’s who! Best to stick to good, wholesome English words like “cappuccino”, “lager” and “sauvignon blanc”

That all makes you think, eh?

I hope you appreciate this article on the dangers of green tea. It’s not too late to share it and get the word out. I’m sure the Big Tea conspiracy will shut me down, but in the meanwhile, let’s share, share, share and try to educate the poor, ignorant masses.

Oh, and one final point: like virtually every other article you’ve ever read on green tea, all of the above actually applies to black, oolong and white teas as well. Sorry if that’s confusing, but blame the aforementioned half-wits.

Danger Will Robinson


The Lure of The Giant Teapot

Well, boys and girls, it all started with a giant teapot. That’s how we ended up with a stall, tastings and a talk at Ladies Day at a retirement village.

Years ago, we looked the economics of holding tea events in Aged Care homes and retirement villages, and they simply weren’t there. Not enough money, too much effort. and my own prejudices.

You see, the main ladies of that age group I have regular contact with are parental in nature, mine and Lady Devotea’s. And though remarkably different in virtually every way, they are nevertheless united on one front: using teab*gs.

I know, the humiliation and the shame of writing that is almost too much to bear.

Anyway, Lady D’s in particular is in a retirement village, so every so often I get to visit, comforting myself that the enormous security gates that are allegedly designed to keep people out may, in fact, be keeping them in. Basically, I like to pretend it’s a minimum security prison.

So when we got a call from another prison, er, retirement village asking us to do our thing there, our initial thoughts were: no, no and no.

But then they mentioned Colleen.

Colleen is a caravan that has been turned into a giant teapot. They had rented it for the day, and we could work out of it. We thought of the great photo ops that would afford us, and decided to go along with the whole thing.

Fast forward to the day and we arrive to the news that the ground is too soggy to take Colleen across the lawn to where she needs to be. It’s also damn cold, so the whole event is now indoors.

And poor old Colleen has been abandoned in the car park.

We had the wrong end of the stick as far as the tasting and talk went. Our idea was that the tasting would be incorporated into the talk, so we were ready to correctly time several pots, pour small samples at each juncture whilst we waxed eloquently about various tea related things. I have this wacky rule where my entire preparation for any speaking event is only eight words. Here’s what my notes said for the day:

1700 Men

1800s Rich

1900s Empire

1900s Australia

Impressive, hey?

So, instead we find out that (a) I am giving a 15 minute talk at the very start of the event (b) the tasting is to be free-form over 3 hours and (c) there is musical entertainment and three other presenters – two police officers, a demonstration of tai chi with a ball whilst sitting down and a lady who is expert in incontinence products. There is also belly dancing at some point.

We quickly get the urn on, teapots ready and then the festivities start with the microphone being handed to the centre manager.

Who is totally mad.

Let’s be kind and say eccentric. Glass houses and all that.

She starts by welcoming everyone – to set the scene, it’s a room full of about forty ladies entirely clad in shades of purple, who have all invited daughters and granddaughters along, of whom there are about six.

She firstly suggests that she’s more than willing to take the credit for the event on the basis of all her hard work and organisation – every resident laughs themselves silly at the thought of this being the case, so these people may be elderly but they are keenly aware of who does what. Could be a tough crowd.

She then lambasts the SA Police for sending along two female officers as opposed to burly, strapping uniformed men. She threatens to get the Metropolitan Fire Service instead next time. She runs through the list of speakers in a breathless fashion, and hands me the microphone.

The fact that a specialist in incontinence was to follow gave me my opening line, and I was off. A tight 15 minutes, covered scandals, Robert Fortune, Captain Pidding, Empires won and lost, the usual. No footage exists of this no doubt highly amusing and informative effort , but it was well received and I felt pretty good about it. Job done.

From there I took a back seat and made tea.

Well, the police officers were really dull (“Don’t forget to lock your doors, dears”), the belly dancers had talent and enthusiasm (unfortunately I am describing two people, one of each), the chi-ball was soporific and the singer had an interesting relationship with pitch (based on avoidance). I must say, though, that the incontinence lady slayed them in the aisles. A class act, and probably the perfect audience.

Whilst it is always me who will grab the microphone and do the en masse stuff, when it comes to one-on-one Lady Devotea is incredible. Over the course of the next few hours, she spoke with virtually everyone in the room, remembering names, hearing potted histories, making everyone feel special. I don’t know how she does it: after all these years I still try to keep up, but it’s best if I just make and dispense the tea.

One of the brilliant ideas that the organisers had was to ask people to bring a special tea cup along for the tasting.

This lady bought along a ship's tea cup, it doesn't spill the precious liquid no matter how rough the sea.

This lady brought along a ship’s tea cup, it doesn’t spill the precious liquid no matter how rough the sea.




This lady bought a cup in 2012 for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and she bought it along for its first ever use at the event.

This lady brought along a cup that she had been given by the family that sponsored her into Australia: 50 years ago!

This lady brought along a cup that she had been given by the family that sponsored her into Australia: 50 years ago!

And many of them did.

In the cases pictured here, it was a privilege to serve tea into such special cups.

We had to make a bit of an adjustment early. We guessed that the English Breakfast style black teas and the flavoured black teas would be the most preferred, but there was a substantial following of some of the greens and whites. In fact, 1001 Nights was the most popular one tasted. Regardless of what they say about assumptions, we like to think “When you assume, you’ll get away with it if you have a plan B on hand.” And we did.

All, in all, the event was actually great fun. We always enjoy representing our teas, and encouraging tea drinking generally.

Any time you can take a room full of people who would most likely be served one cup of teaba*g tea, and turn it into a room of people drinking multiple cups from loose leaf, it’s a winner.

The folk who attended, both residents and families, were really lovely, and it would be nice to do such things more often. Not for the commercial benefit (there really isn’t one) but because everyone has a right to learn about great tea and have it shared with them, no matter what life stage they are at.

So don’t wait for your grandmother to get out the teapot and the loose leaf, collect your tea making equipment and head over there. Ask her to invite some friends.

Listen to the stories, and share the tea.

Oh, and the obligatory shot in the giant teapot? Here it is, you’re welcome.




Tea Service

“I know the nicest thing I ever had on the Kokoda Trail was a cup of tea given to me by the Salvation Army. And I hated tea that never had milk or sugar in it; this didn’t have any in it and I loved it, I wanted more. I had half a cup, that’s all they had. I never forgot that one.”

-Interview with Syd Heylen, 39th Battalion, June 1989, from the Keith Murdoch Sound Archive, Australian War Memorial

I’ve just come back from a Dawn Service to mark ANZAC Day, and, to be honest, it didn’t go well. Whilst the gardens are lovely, the West Torrens War Memorial is really good and there were hundreds of people, the ceremony was very sadly lacking.

Firstly, the Council had clearly bought their sound amplification gear via eBay, second-hand, from a shoe shop spruiker. It would have been enough for about 6 people to hear. It had one little speaker facing forwards, which is of course particularly ineffective in a 360-degree event. At least the local dignitaries could hear the sound of their own voices. Unless, of course, a plane was going overhead, but how likely was that one kilometre from the airport, on the flight path, during an event that occurred at exactly the time the airport curfew ends? Still, the airport was only commissioned in 1955, possibly the council haven’t noticed yet.

So, to start with hundreds of people silently streaming through darkened, cold streets is very eerie and moving. Then to score half an hour of vaguely heard mumbling is really disrespectful for the occasion. The bugler was first rate, the only other thing I heard was a few of the more religious types voicing the Lord’s Prayer at the appropriate juncture.

The minute’s silence, sandwiched by the bugler, made it all worth it.

 Anyway, as I made my way back through the 6 weeks’ worth of roadworks that has just entered its seventh month (don’t get me started) I was thinking about all of the people who had been disrespected by this pretty poor service. The boys as young as 14 and men as old as 60 who had given up civilian lives in 1914/15 to sail around the world and take part in a conflict not of our making, just over a dozen years since the birth of our nation. The thousands who perished in France in both World Wars. Members of my own family who were Rats of Tobruk.The brave women and men who tended the wounded whilst shells fell about them in all conflicts. World War I, World War II, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, East Timor, Rwanda, Somalia, The Solomons, Kuwait, Iraq, East Timor, Afganistan, barely a conflict where Australians, usually with our great ally New Zealand have gone to lend a hand, at times when “lending a hand’ often meant paying with your life.

And then I remembered a story I had heard many years ago, and I realised, that instead of a good old rant on Facebook, I should write this post.

I had some dealings with the Salvation Army many years ago, as I worked for a company that was selling stuff to them. I’m not much of  fan of theirs, to be honest, as they have a dismal track record in child exploitation. On a better note, my late Grandmother loved them, and they did pop round under her window with a brass band to thank her for her years of service when she was likely to die. For years she sent my Dad as a small child every Sunday to Sunday School at the Salvos with a small donation for the poor, ironically, they were incredibly poor themselves. My Dad’s decision to mostly spend the money on ice cream and go exploring the river can be seen as a sort of Robin Hood manoeuvre in this light.

Anyway, the Salvos have been involved in every major conflict that Australia has turned up for, and always, they’ve bought the tea.

If it takes courage to go to the front lines after a few months training and armed with a rifle, how much more must it take to head there with an urn? Seriously, it’s an incredibly brave move.

So, to return to the thread of story I’ve lost a few times, my boss at the time, Paul, pointed to a picture on the wall on a visit to Salvos HQ, and told me that a story was related to him on his last visit.

“See that guy, he’s a bit of a local hero. He was in Papua New Guinea in WWII, and he was sent to meet Australian and British troops at a jetty. He set up on the end of the jetty, with a little canvas tent and an urn full of tea, all by himself. But instead of the Aussies and Brits, five Japanese motor boats turned up. He’d been sent to the wrong jetty.”

You know the sort part of my story? Paul had not thought to ask the obvious question “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED NEXT?”.

His final thoughts: “Well, he came home. This photo shows him in 1970”.

I love sharing tea, I love making tea for others and I’m often proud of the way I can knock up a decent cuppa under trying circumstances. Would I have the courage to do what that Salvos guy did? I’m lucky I’ve never had to find out.

There are so many untold stories. Australians who were born here, or arrived here from every corner of the globe gave their lives in so many conflicts, and today, our whole country stops to remember them.

We are remembering tens of thousands who never came back, and tens of thousands who came back damaged in mind and body, and in amongst all of that, let’s remember the tea dispensers of all nations whose contribution was to just make the unbearable a little more bearable.

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