Monday, December 10, 2007

Lay Aside Politics. Let's Celebrate Tea!

In 1995, someone wrote a letter to Upton Tea Imports, saying: "Only a pervert is capable of drinking the revolting liquid which is obtained by steeping little bags of toilet paper in hot water." Of course, Upton Tea Imports--a merchant of the highest distinction--sells only loose tea. Thankfully, I am not so burdened with this enthusiast's refined tastes, but I respect his appreciation for a good cuppie o' tea (as they say in my ancestral land). In honor of that best of brews in all its variety, I share Robert Service's ought-to-be-classic poem from Rhymes of a Red Cross Man (1916), "A Cup of Tea." (The context is the trenches of World War I.)

You make it in your mess-tin by the brazier's rosy gleam;

You watch it cloud, then settle amber clear;

You lift it with your bay'nit, & you sniff the fragrant steam,

The very breath of it is ripe with cheer.

You're awful cold and dirty, and a-cursing of your lot;

You scoff the blushin' 'alf of it, so rich and ripping hot;

It bucks you up like anythink, just seems to touch the spot:

God bless the man that first discovered Tea.

Since I came out to fight in France (which ain't the other day),
I think I've drunk enough to float a barge;

All kinds of fancy foreign dope, from caffy and doo lay,

To rum they serves you out before a charge;

In back rooms of estaminays I've gurgled pints of cham;

I've swilled down mugs of cider till I've felt a bloomin' dam;

But s'truth! they all ain't in it with the vintage of Assam;

God bless the man that first invented Tea.

I think them lazy lumps o' gods wot kips on asphodel

Swigs nectar that's a flavour of Oolong;

I only wish them son's o' guns a grillin' down in 'ell

Could have their daily ration of Suchong.

Hurrah! I'm off the battle, which is 'ell and 'eaven too;

And if I don't give some poor bloke a sexton's job to do,

To-night by Fritz's campfire won't I 'ave a gorgeous brew,

(For fightin' mustn't interfere with Tea).

To-night we'll all be telling of the Boches that we slew,

As we drink the giddy victory in Tea.

Try How to Brew a Great Cuppa.
Interesting tea website: where you can find a sketch of Pushkin at tea.

Perhaps another time, I will post on Service's "The Haggis of Private McPhee." Ah, the golden cadence of poesy!

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