My Dear Mr Sullivan


January 3rd, 1902

Mr Thomas Sullivan, Esq., Tea Merchant

New York, New York, United Stated of America

My Dear Mr Sullivan

I trust you are well.

Your instinct, Sir, will be to dispose of the letter as the ravings of a madman. I beg you not to do that. The very future of tea depends upon it.

If the third from next paragraph is too much for you, I ask you to place this folded letter in a desk drawer; where it will take up scant room. Then, at some point this year, you will be very glad you are able to access it and read it with a new light. This I assure you, upon my word as a Peer of The Realm.

Sir, this letter will find its way into your hands within the week; and as stated I expect you to have sequestered it. You will therefore be surprised when the 28th Kentucky Derby is won by Jimmy Winkfield on Alan-a-Dale  in the exact time of 2:08.75 on the third day in May. Since you will assume this is some trick, or that I might have paid off the entire racing fraternity, you might well hold judgement until the 31st of May, when an Australian XI will score just 36 runs in an innings against England at Edgbastion.

At this point, you will probably still ascribe the veracity of my predictions to inside knowledge or some other factor, so it will still startle you when Santa Maria in Guatemala is hit by an earthquake and about 6,000 poor souls perish on October 25th.

Sir, from this point on I will assume that you are reading this after you have become convinced that my next statement is true: I have travelled backwards in time to this era. I am from the future.

And Sir, I know what is in your heart.

With the purest of motives, Sir, you have just placed an order for some tiny silk bags. I know you plan to sequester small samples of your tea in them, and send them to potential and actual customers.

Sir, I beg you, do not.

Astoundingly, if you do, many of those you send them to will immerse the entire bag in hot water, brew the tea, drink it, and discard the bag, leaves and all.

This may surprise you, or perhaps not. Whether it does or not, Sir, the ramifications are well beyond what you might foresee.

Within a generation, “teabags” will gain a foothold and rise to be the most common way tea is consumed. The silk bags that you have so elegantly commissioned will be replaced with chemically-treated paper, and then with an artificial substance called “nylon” posing as silk.

And the tea, Sir, oh, the tea!

Inferior tea, fannings and dust! Harvested by machine, processed by machine, with the life force ground out of it between the blades. Tea that is all colour and no taste. Vast tracts of Northern Africa – yes, Sir, Africa – turned into gigantic estates, churning out tea to benefit soulless suited types in boardrooms, where they themselves consume fine teas.

By the end of this century, the process will be complete.

I visit your time from 2189, after the last estate producing loose leaf tea – in New Zealand, of all places – has just closed.

I come at great personal cost. After studying the English of your time, and learning everything there is to know about you – you are sadly infamous, Sir – I have travelled back to pen this letter.

The trauma of such travel upon my body means I shall probably live less than a day from my arrival. Arriving and finding you absent from New York for the week, I have commuted my plan to meet you and personally convince you to relying on this letter alone.

I trust it finds you and that it compels you to action.

The future of tea depends on it.

Yours faithfully


The 17th Earl Grey


5 thoughts on “My Dear Mr Sullivan

  1. Again I wasn’t quite sure where you were going with this. But I loved where it went! I am in awe of your way with words. As I am currently having a difficult time with my NanoWriMo ( piece of fiction.

    When do you think this book with be out? I can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeve!

  2. I did realize where this was headed, because I knew who Mr Sullivan was. Well, I’m sure there were several, but given the date, and the author of this mighty fine post,it could only be about Mr Bags himself.
    However, I did not know the request came from Earl Grey the 17th, and I must confess to being taken by surprise. As far as I know, Earl Greys, for generations have been mighty content with being stuffed in a bag, so why the sudden rebellion with #17 I don’t know.
    Of course, I do believe that the Earl Greys at some point in the future mixed genes with the Devotea clan, and that changed every single thing.

Comments are closed.