Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the Political Calm, the Blessings of Tea

I'm still catching my breath from the intensity of the last two years' political contest. I'm feeling a calm as one feels after a terrible storm. But I suspect it's more like the eye of the hurricane. The storm will continue, fiercer and more deadly than it has raged up to now. Perhaps the Bushes and the Obamas felt the same calm as they chummed around the White House today. Perhaps they shared tea.

So as we enjoy calm--or attempt to cultivate it while we can--let turn our own thoughts to the blessings of tea. I am republishing my post on the subject, as I plan to do every year around this time if I can remember to do so. You see, I'm really busy.

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: www.teaspirit.com/teabagladies where I found this 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!


Jen said...

I don't think I ever drink tea without thinking of you!

David C. Innes said...

Well, that is certainly an honor.