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 5)

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”?

“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.

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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.

Thursday:

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

Saturday:

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

Sunday:

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

Monday:

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

Tuesday:

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

Wednesday:

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

Thursday:

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*****

Saturday:

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

DSCN1494

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.

colleen

 

 

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.

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.”

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 http://memory.loc.gov/master/pnp/cph/3g00000/3g04000/3g04600/3g04617u.tif on the Library of Congress website.http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g04617http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a15070. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edenton-North-Carolina-women-Tea-boycott-1775.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Edenton-North-Carolina-women-Tea-boycott-1775.jpg

“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.

A Trolley Good Time

The Tea Lady is virtually a mythical figure these days. Once an essential part of any medium sized business; the post is now reduced to a couple of stereotypes.

In my part of the world, they finally seem to have totally disappeared in the early 1990s, although the die was cast a couple of decades earlier.

I blame “Time and Motion Experts”. Remember those guys? They had a stopwatch and a calculator, and they stood behind people and worked out how much work they could pump out in a given time. Then workplaces such as factories could insist upon that work being completed.

I had a factory job on a muffler welding line when I was in my early 20s and every task had a number of seconds it was supposed to take. The reality was, when people got to the number of items they were supposed to have completed in a shift, they’d stop. Sometimes they’d go and help someone else who was behind in their work, mostly they’d hide outside in the yard with an iced coffee and a cigarette for an hour.

“Time and Motion” Experts have, over time, been shown up for the complete waste of resources they were. The standard version is a guy with a stopwatch, a calculator, a clipboard, an accounting degree and a complete lack of understanding of behavioral economics, who made stupid pronouncements, put in a large bill and then wandered off to cause misery and mayhem elsewhere.
And it was as business became entranced with these charlatans that the demise of the tea lady was complete.
There were other forces at work. The idea of a tea “lady” was bound to come up against notions of gender equality, and was unlikely to be a role that educated young women with the world at their feet would aspire to. Whereas previous generations of office workers could not leave their desks, the gradual phasing out of smoking in the workplace led to the extraordinary idea that nicotine junkies had the special status of being able to leave their workplace to indulge in their foul and anti-social habit every so often.

The ironic thing that underlies all of this is that tea ladies were mostly introduced during wartime to boost productivity.

Yes, it’s true. The theory being that if people who were working very hard on typical wartime pursuits such as moving information about, creating armaments or directing forces could be refreshed and energised with a nice hot cup of tea without leaving their station, more could be achieved.

And you know what- it worked.

Pretty obvious when you think about it. Slow release caffeine, topping up of bodily liquids, a sweet treat and a small bit of office gossip delivered in one hit. The perfect pick-me-up.

The same theory holds for a cup of coffee delivered in the same way, of course, except that coffee is not ideal as the caffeine is more of an instant hit and dissipates more quickly.

So, something that was introduced to boost productivity – and worked – eventually fell victim to various social forces including the just plain wrong assertion that removing it boosted productivity.

When I was working at a large company in the early 2000s, I simply took 15 minutes just before 11am and 3pm precisely and headed to the kitchen with my large teapot. As the hour struck, up to a dozen people from all over the building would drift in to share whatever tea I had bought along that day. Since a few of the people involved were quite senior, everyone assumed it was some sort of officially sanctioned activity. Eventually it lead to The Humorous Incident.

I’m a big fan of the meeting over a cuppa, and wherever I can, it’s something I indulge in. If you have to have a meeting, might as well have a teapot, I say.

It’s a fact, though, that many people in their workplaces cannot just pop out to meet a client or some other stakeholder over a brew as I like to. Many people cannot leave their station, whether it be the booth of a car park, the ninth cubicle in the second row on the left or a front counter.

I doubt there’s a better way to boost their morale, productivity and blood sugar than tea and a biscuit.

So, where to from here? Let’s be practical. How do workplaces bring back the tea lady?

It’s not via help-yourself methods such as vending machines or filthy teab*gs in the kitchen.

Vending machines in particular irk me, as they are full of corner shop type impulse buys – chocolate bars, potato chips, oat bars. The joy of a small biscuit or cake is often that they are not in your eyeline every time you buy a newspaper. And these machines dispense foul, substandard beverages. Powdered milk, or even worse, “non-dairy creamer”, which as I previously examined, is basically so wrong that it is used as an explosive and is not allowed to be sold as “creamer” in countries where it’s against the law to lie to your customers.

No! You can do so much better.

The first thing a workplace needs is a conveyance, be it trolley or tray, and a conveyor, which can well be someone who also has another task. Sadly, so few places have workplace cafeterias these days, which is an obvious place for a tea lady to work when not delivering tea.

We have to drop the “lady” as it is clearly not a gender-specific role. “Tea boy” is a well established alternative but just isn’t right. I myself was effectively the office tea lady for several years – and was called that – but we need a better term. So what to use?

Corporate speak would be “Beverage Requirement Facilitator” and I think we can safely say that’s a non-starter. We could borrow the word “sommelier” from wine, but I personally disapprove of using overblown winespeak – something I have opposed since Alexander Neckham’s remarks in 1240 or thereabouts, so that’s out.

“Trollista” is something I came up with, but rightly should be smacked about for. “Beverage Attendant” sounds wrong.

If you need to sell the idea to management, perhaps “Work Booster” is the best title.

Since I can’t actually come up with the perfect title, I’ll leave that for the comments.

But business needs to hear our clarion call. Do it now! Do it properly!

Teapots or large french presses or samovars or urns. Loose leaf tea. Biscuits (cookies) and/or small cakes. Sugar cubes. Proper milk. Drip filter coffee if you must.

Get your business trolleyed up and equipped to take on the world.

Bring back the tea lady. Give her a different title, lose the gender specification and add a flashing amber light if your Health and Safety requirements insist but bring “her” back!

There are so many workplace morale ideas that can now be implemented. Golden teacup of the day for outstanding effort. Special jam biscuit when it’s your birthday. Competitions to pick the week’s tea blend.

And when your company rises like a phoenix, slaying all it’s tealess competitors and becoming top of the heap, you’ll have the means on hand to enjoy a well-deserved celebratory tea.

And perhaps a really nice little cake.

 

The Hub

I was going to start by saying “regular readers will know”, but as I have published only three short, simple pieces in five weeks, I probably don’t have any left.

The last four months have been the most demanding of our lives, and this Thursday, the catalyst behind it all will come into being.

I’d like to say “burst” into being but I don’t have the energy.

Every waking moment (and there have been hardly any non-waking ones -four hours continuous sleep is  luxury I don’t remember) has led inexorably to Thursday.

It’s hard to see one’s nearest and dearest actually fall over from exhaustion. To have to physically restrain someone from working any longer or virtually force a drink down their dehydrated throat is a highly emotive situation.  All of which leads to Thursday

We’ve overseen the renovation of a pub and renovated living quarters that were so disgraceful I was surprised we didn’t find a documentary crew from “World’s Filthiest Tenants” who had got lost behind the rolls of smelly carpet on the fourth bedroom.  We’ve bought a car and an overly cheerful SatNav so we can make endless trips to the paint and carpet shops.

All to get us to Thursday.

“Is something happening Thursday?”, I hear you ask.

Yes, something is.

On Thursday, The Devotea At The Oaklands will launch.20140710_091330

It’s a tea room / coffee house / family restaurant. It has its own menu and its own hours which are different to the pub, yet you can visit both at the same time as they are under one roof.

Lady Devotea has done an  amazing job selecting fabrics with which to recover a collection of old chairs which have been bought and refurbished.

20140713_093742

So, from Thursday The Devotea teas will be available in the UK once more, along with a resurrection of some of our coffee blends, cakes, scones of course, muffins and more.

I’d write more about it, but we’ve got menus to finish, teas and coffees to blend. We’ve got a new logo for The Devotea to unveil, and a new logo for The Devotea At The Oaklands. We’ve got a counter to finish off, some painting, some machinery relocation, some plumbing, some baking. Some training to provide for staff. Some teaware and servingware to purchase.

I’ll probably see you on the other side of Thursday. Either online, or at Notley Green, Great Notley, Essex, UK CM77 7US, The Devotea At The Oaklands.

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