TEA: Definitely not beer

There is one liquid that I cannot live without & that is beer, I mean tea, definitely tea & definitely not beer. Sorry, easy mistake to make especially when it is a boiling hot evening & you could just partake in a nice, refreshing, pint of……

Where was I? Oh yes, back to tea. For us British, there is nothing quite like enjoying a lovely cuppa with friends to promote camaraderie & friendship.

Although it has been around in China for a few thousand years, I do believe tea is a relative newcomer to this country, being introduced to British society possibly by Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of King Charles the Second, circa 1662 (although I have it on good authority that Samuel Pepys made comment to it in his diaries in 1660). The process of adding milk to tea was implemented just a little while later, in an effort to stop the fragile china cups from China, cracking with the heat from boiling water. Our adoration of the hot coloured liquid continued, prompting heavy taxation (oh what a surprise), with smuggling & adulteration of the product ensuing with unscrupulous dealers cutting the brew with tea-looking substitutes, such as dried garden leaves & even, sheep dung (“Excuse me my good man, my tea tastes like shit”). This was stopped by William Pitt the Younger Bin 1784 when he slashed the tea taxation. Hurrah for Bill.

During the First World War, the British Government recognised the morale boosting importance of tea, not only to the boys in the trenches, but also to the members of the public & took control of its importation to prevent price over-inflation. Similarly, the government squeezed the flow once again, during & after the Second World War, finally letting it trickle at the end of rationing in 1952.

As we march forward to modern times, ‘getting a brew on’ is still an absolute necessity for those taking part in military shenanigans. Each squaddie carries within their personal equipment, a ‘brew kit’, which typically comprises of a lightweight stove, a metal receptacle & a variety of ingredients to make something hot & wet. For those who are vehicle based though, then it is common to find what was known as a ‘brew-box’, ‘morale box’ or a ‘little box of joy’. This is usually an old metal ammunition box, which contains a more robust brew-kit, complete with a frying pan for cooking ‘egg banjos’, as well as other essential items, such as biscuits, chocolate bars, comfy-bum (soft toilet paper) & an assortment of ‘artistic’ magazines (possibly, even a bottle or two of Herforder if you are necky enough).

For us former military chaps, ‘getting a brew on’ is still as important as ever (if only to skive off work for a few minutes). If I am on a dawdle I still carry a brew-kit with me, although firing up the gas burner in the middle of Trafalgar Square does get you a few odd looks (especially from those chaps in blue). Next time you have a brew though, rather than sit & look gormlessly at your phone, use that time to check-in with one of your old buddies. Send them an electronic message to make sure they are alright or better still, make time to meet up & ‘get a brew on. You never know, that brew could help save their life.

PS. The term ‘NATO’ in military-speak refers to a ‘NATO-standard cup of tea’ which is made with milk & two sugars.

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