A few years ago, when I was young and carefree, I contributed to a blog managed by my good friend Richard. My postings were rare, sporadic and rarely touched the standard he set on an almost daily basis. I urge you to have a look, it’s called The Tech Horn.
One article I compiled in May 2008, a mere piece of whimsy, was a statement of my deeply held feelings at the time towards tea drinking. Those feelings haven’t really changed if truth be told, although I recognise that I’m somewhat in the minority – please don’t judge me too harshly on this.
The image is of a metal plate purchased yesterday on Edinburgh’s Cockburn Street: I’m looking for somewhere suitable to hang it.
Media Release (AnTea 2008.05.19)
TEA IDENTIFIED AS SYMBOL OF IMPERIALIST YOKE: CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO THROW OFF AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SHACKLES
Australian National Tea Eradication Assembly
Canberra / Monday 19 May, 2008
Australian academics have announced preliminary findings from a multi-disciplinary study into the effects of tea drinking on the nation’s society and culture. Long considered a staple of community interaction, this research turns many preconceptions on their head in a clash between common sense and proper work that took lots of effort.
When asked to choose from a list of possible emotions, the majority of tea drinkers claimed the beverage produced feelings of ‘warmth’, ‘comfort’ and ‘tastiness’. The fourth option, ‘giddiness’, was a distant fourth except among stereotypical Dutch contributors.
In an open question, the survey also asked respondents to say what they felt tea had brought to Australian culture since its introduction by Kerry Packer in 1987 to celebrate Fremantle’s hosting of the America’s Cup. Younger people liken tea to familiar experiences that they can share with friends and family. Examples include:
- soap operas
- sports team
- family pets
- family holidays
- book clubs
- breakfast cereal
- warm hugs
Older respondents displayed typical symptoms of those for whom tea is a relatively recent introduction to their lives. They remember an older, more primitive Australia, with tea linked to:
- corrupt politicians
- Ned Kelly (‘he put one over on the English’)
- losing family members to spiders and sharks
- nearly losing family members to sharks
- whatever it was we used to drink
Both of these symptoms were said to be worrying, according to lead scientist Rev. Prof. Michael A. Fiest. In a statement to accompany the preliminary report’s publication he said: ‘Hopefully our work will begin the process of turning people away from tea drinking. We have consulted widely through this great nation’s communities, educational establishments, politics and some trendy coffee shops – now is the time for politicians to act.’
Key findings from the report include some damning indictments on today’s tea drinkers, revealing for the firsttime that:
- making tea is a waste of time: your time, my time, everyone’s time
- water is much nicer and easier to prepare
- with less paraphernalia and expense
- and washing up
- remembering to offer tea when people come round is a drag; it’s better to turn down the offer when you’re at their house so you’re not obliged to do the same when they come round
- paradoxically, making tea is far too easy for folk in coffee shops to make: it’s just adding hot water to a cup with a tea bag in, better to have some hot chocolate
- these findings are not just restricted to tea – coffee’s not even very tasty
- leaving tea to go cold is an unfortunate, yet inevitable by-product of making the drink on a regular basis – the results are still going to be disappointing
- some people get the shakes after drinking tea, which isn’t helpful or funny
- Earl Grey tastes of flowers
- if you’re the one doing the washing up, what are you supposed to do with a tea bag left in the cup when it’s soaking wet and your hands are covered in bubbles?
The most damning part of the report concerns the role of the United Kingdom government in forcing tea on Australian society. A clause in the Commonwealth of Australia legislation, enacted on 1 January 1901, demanded that Australia’s states and territories support the work of the Honourable East India Company. A quirk of British bureaucracy meant that the Company’s name could be used during the lifetime of Queen Victoria, who signed the death notice of the spice importer in 1858. Had she died 22 days earlier, and thus predated Federation, the clause would have been scrubbed from the legislation.
Instead, the British government placed pressure on Packer to introduce tea to the country, tying a nation to its addictive effects. Asked if this was similar to the Opium Wars of the 19th century, Rev. Prof. Fiest said that was ‘taking it a bit far’,
it was more like ‘British tea suppliers crashing our party and selling us stuff that’s actually turned out to be quite popular’.
A representative from the Western Australian government said it was deeply regrettable that the memory of the America’s Cup should be sullied in this way: ‘Just as we use Vegemite to fight the Brits and their awful Marmite, so we shall take on their tea culture!’ No further details were available on what might be pitted against UK tea, although declining capacity in the country’s river system suggests a dramatic response is not far away. Experts have suggested it may coincide with publication of the full report.