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The British and Their Tea


Brian Wolfe

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The British and Their Tea.

 History is not just about the dates of battles, there is the consideration of planning, tactics, and supply, as well as establishing objectives and the logistics in general to be considered. All of these factors and more could never take place or even be considered by the British Military of the Victorian era without the key ingredient; tea.

 Some background:

 Before we get out the Brown Betty let’s consider tea and the way different counties enjoy this beverage. I understand the British like their tea with milk and in some areas of the UK with the addition of sugar; this, along with the offer of “I’ll be mother”, a non-gender specific nor indicative of any genetic kinship, offer to pour the brew when ready. Those in Canada who, like me, hail from the far Northern regions of Ontario take our tea black. This is often made in an old tin pail over the noon-day camp fire (during hunting season), using water from a beaver pond, hello Guardia, (also known as Beaver Fever, which sounds like an emotional obsession of a teenage boy; only it’s much worse)  after skimming the green pond plants from the surface of the boiling water. No wonder you can’t poison a Canadian from the North. From what I have read the Americans like to bulk soak their tea in questionable harbour waters before the drink is prepared. The only reference to this comes from the Boston area so they may no longer practise this strange behaviour. Exactly how the Australians take their tea remains a mystery though I suspect water from a Billabong may be involved. If this is so then they too might be like Canadians and difficult or even impossible to poison. I asked a friend from Australia this question and was bluntly told to f**k off. I may have touched on a violation of the State Secrets Act.

 The question in the minds of many readers, unless I have already “lost” you, is when did the British stop transporting loose leaf tea on campaign? If you never thought about it, then you might just be doing so now. It’s OK, you can admit it, we’re all gentlemen here; it’s in the Club’s title. 

 While reading the book “In Abor Jungles” by Angus Hamilton, chronicling the Abor Expedition into North Eastern India, 1911 to 1912 (see page 180), I came upon this interesting fact.  A warning about the book in general: if you are not into in-depth studies of relatively obscure military actions then this book may not be for you. Mr. Hamilton covers the traits of the different tribes in infinite detail and these sections are about as exciting as the list of “Begets” found in the Book of Geneses. Just to be fair that section of the Bible is actually quite important as it sets out the lineage of a certain family. Just so I don’t spoil the ending I suggest you read the Book.

The Quote from “In Abor Jungles”:

 “The tea was Liptons of very good quality and the subject of a somewhat daring experiment, as the well-known firm had been permitted by the Government of India to provide supplies of compressed tea for the use of the expedition instead of loose leaf that hitherto had been favoured. A special machine was sent to India for the purpose of compressing the tea; and, as it was the first time that troops on service in India had been given compressed tea, the military authorities were taking a keen interest in the experiment. Happily the departure from the customary methods of carrying tea was a great success and it was pretty well certain that compressed tea will be employed in future wars. The advantage in transport was very obvious, a chest of forty-five pounds only measured 20 inches by 15 inches by 8½ inches”.

-First printed in 1912

I say old boy, never thought your life would be enriched by an article regarding tea here on the GMIC, did you?

 Regards

Brian

 Photo below is from the book, “Military Ink: A pen at war”,

available through IMA (International Military Antiques Inc.

 

Tea and the British Officer.JPG

7 Comments


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I prefer my tea with honey and lemon. I don't know where that method originated.

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I don't really drink that much these days, but there is something about a hot cup of Char that can't be beaten when you are cold wet and miserable. Has to be with milk and although I prefer it sweet with a teaspoon of sugar, these day I usually go without. When the mood takes me I will also  drink Earl Grey (with milk of course). But if I am honest my favourite brew is coffee (espresso) can't stand instant coffee, though although I do like Camp coffee which is another British thing from days gone by.

Having said that I am also rather partial to Iced Tea, which really is sacrilegious to many this side of the pond. 

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 I drink tea every day (Chinese tea), I used to buy Sri Lankan black tea at the fair before, it was great! I have been reluctant to drink them all. . The tea I’m talking about is just brewing water, not adding other substancesI

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I live and grew up in the south (USA) and the drink of choice 7 days a week was cold sweet tea. I was unaware Lipton was British because that’s what most southern use for brewing tea. When I joined the army I learned most people in the north and western parts of the USA drank unsweetened tea and that was perplexing to my young brain. Now days I can’t stand sweet iced tea but it’s still the most common drink in the south, but, you can get unsweetened ice tea in the south.

Im familiar with hot tea as my dad’s sister, who lived in California, used to ship him crates containing a great variety of teas. She send him cups, saucers, tea steeping deals on chains and whatnot. He preferred coffee but would drink some out of respect for her. I would try if not as a kid I didn’t like hot tea or coffee, just sweet iced tea. Now days, I love hot tea with nothing added and wish I had a relative who wanted to ship me crates of teas. I life English tea, Irish Tea, Green tea, Chai, and love Oolong tea.

interesting topic for sure.
 

 

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Hi ccj,

Thanks for your comments. Funny how, for me at least, coffee has become a habit more than a conscience choice. It's the old, "Well if you having one (coffee) pour me as well". When I get together with my son-in-law, a former Brit, it's tea all the way.

Thanks again.

Regards

Brian

 

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I like my tea strong enough for my spoon to stand up in. My father got me into it. When my father was at RAF Dum Dum 1943-47 most of his fellow officers drank ice cold drinks to mitigate  the heat, his Sikh batman warned him against it and said that strong hot tea would cool him down, most certainly did. So years later in the UK when everybody else was drinking iced drinks on a baking day the wood family was inbibing copious quantities of hot strong brews of Assam's finest.

P

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Lapsang Souchong, when i first tasted this I thought it was like stale cigarette ends...it's an acquired taste for sure.

 

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