Destiny Made Manifest

How_to_Lie_with_Statistics“If you can’t prove what you want to prove, demonstrate something else and pretend they are the same thing. In the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind, hardly anyone will notice the difference.” – How To Lie With Statistics, D Huff, 1954

This week, there’s going to be a higher than usual amount of people who’ve never read my blog before. For you newbies I’d just like to provide the following disclaimer:

  1. Any point to this post, or any other, no matter how serious, life-threatening, life-affirming, alarming, syrupy sweet or political, is bound to be hidden by massive quantities of sidebars and distractions
  2. As a tea blogger, I make sure there’s tea in here somewhere. Some posts you have to keep a very sharp eye.
  3. So, at this point, if you continue, it’s all your own fault.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. I was quoting Huff.

Huff’s book “How to Lie With Statistics” was lying about in my home room the day I started High School, and quickly became one of two seminal books that made me decide I wanted to be a statistician for the rest of my life. The other was the “The South Australian Football League Centenary” which contained 100 years of football statistics.

Before long I was devouring ABC Cricket Handbooks and anything else I could find with numbers in it, and firmly committed myself to a lifelong career in statistics. I was about 13, and this deep abiding commitment lasted until I was 15 and discovered the electric bass guitar. From there on in, the choice between the required mathematical study for a career in statistics or learning to play Jimi Hendrix numbers for a career in rock stardom was an easy one.

So my career in stats never took off. Either did the one in becoming a rock God, in case you haven’t noticed, although I did get to play bass on a song written by Lady Devotea that reached Number 1 in our hometown for 1 week, so all those years weren’t wasted. And of course, I met Lady D as part of a project for young musicians, so thirty years of marriage later I’m pretty happy with my choice of failed career.

I still love stats. Over the years, I’ve worked as a consultant at times and compiled some lovely tables and some picturesque graphs. And thoroughly enjoyed doing so.

But today, I get to play with my own set of data

Nicole Schwarz, who heads The Devotea in the US, came up with the idea of a survey and sent a suggested questionnaire to us here at The Devotea Headquarters in Australia. We added a few questions and before you know it, we were all a-surveying.

Now, we’ve closed it off.

I am amazed at the number of responses, given that we just mentioned it a few times on Facebook and posted it to a tea group on LinkedIn.

Obviously, we are going to use the data in making some choices in our tea business. But today, I am going to share, and comment upon, some of the answers.

Let’s start with the question about temperature, and isn’t that graph interesting?Hot Cold tea percentage


I think in the general population in the USA/Canada, where around 78% of our respondents were from, this roughly lines up with my expectations, although a little light on the iced.

People who only drink iced came in at less than 1%. I’d suggest that might be greater in the general population, but that people who do a survey on a tea website are of course, a self-selecting special interest group.

What is interesting is that the Australian data is not a lot different. The Australian respondents who picked “Hot” at 80% was not that far from the US/Canada who came in at 73%.

For me, a key question is how these people are making their tea.

So, we gave them a list of methods and asked them to select all that applied.

tea Preparation

Bear in mind it was possible to select all of them.

92% drink loose leaf tea. Let me say how appalled I am at this figure. It means that 8 percent of respondents need to seriously lift their game.

For the 8 percent, some form of counselling is necessary, or my celebrated 2-Step programme – (1) Make good loose leaf tea, (2) drink it – but the thing that has got me all steamed up is the 36% who admit to the foul practice of using teab*gs.

The 1% who admitted to instant may have been mistaken, the half dozen or so percent drinking Ready-to-Drink bottles or cans might be doing so on the run on a hot day, but those tea-bagging 36% have absolutely no excuse.

Now at this point, you might be thinking “That’s hardly proper statistical analysis, that’s just value judgement and, quite frankly, a bit of a rant. It’s not what I was expecting”.

And perhaps you’re right.

So I did a brief survey of the writers of this post, and came to the stunning result that 100% of me said “If you were expecting anything else, then your expectations are wrong”. So, that sorts that out.

On with the stats.

One question Nicole wrote that I absolutely loved was ” What often prompts a tea purchase: Planning or Whimsy?”. It came out 58% to 42% in favour of “whimsy”. YES! You whimsy guys are my people. The world needs more whimsy, in everything. In fact, we just need to say and/or write “whimsy” a lot more, and I’m doing my bit.

When we decide upon new blends here at The Devotea HQ, there is often much discussion. I love blending pure, unflavoured black teas. That’s why we have, over the last few years, had more than ten variations on basically breakfast or afternoon tea blends. Lady Devotea is very good at coming up with ideas for flavoured teas. Hers tend to sell better!

What was interesting was that whilst 45% of respondents prefer straight unflavoured tea, only 8% preferred flavoured. Roughly half of all respondents enjoy both, which is not the impression you get if you read certain discussions on Facebook, Steepster or Twitter.

Overall, there were 28 questions, and we have gained much useful knowledge. We’ve had some interesting questions that we will answer individually as we get to them, and we have learned much about what people think about tea generally, about our teas, our corporate image.

Here’s one comment that excites us:  ” This survey has introduced me to a concept that I know nothing about. All my tea purchases are through retail outlets, some large supermarkets and some specialist tea shops.”

That does make it seem we might have future surveys!

Finally, I’d like to address a question I added myself. being the conceited and self-important little poppet that I am,  It was this: Do you read the blog “Lord Devotea’s Tea Spouts?”

I’m proud to say that 15% said “Yes“. (okay, it was closer to 14½%).

I’m miffed that 22½% said “No” (okay, closer to 23%, sheesh!)

I’m wondering why 4 people out of the many respondents refused to answer. It’s not like I was going to hunt you down and hurt you.

But I’m delighted that 58% took the slightly dodgy option of “I will now”. I’m sure some just picked that because it might possibly have influenced the competition winners (it didn’t). But is does mean that there’s probably a bunch of people reading this blog for the first time.

If that’s you, welcome. I hope you’ve found it entertainingly bombastic and educationally adequate, because tea opinions, tea history, vicious sarcasm and wild flights of fancy are all I’ve got to offer.


2 thoughts on “Destiny Made Manifest

  1. I look forward to those 58% – who promised to read your blog – leaving a caring sign that they are indeed doing so now!
    Why remain ignorant your whole life, when you can devotea yourself for free?

  2. I always thought that all figures are right, only the interpretation we give from them are wrong.

    Since I am among the 22% from somewhere else, I don’t know if your analyse still holds.

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