The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #116927   Message #2516234
Posted By: Rowan
15-Dec-08 - 05:44 PM
Thread Name: BS: Tea Question
Subject: RE: BS: Tea Question
Youse guys sure go over the top over you tea-making rituals, and none of you is even Japanese!

For those into ritual variations, here's mine.

Find a nice bit of river bank with some shade; coolibahs or redgums are prefereable but optional. Light a small fire and, when it has enough red coals, put you billy on. The best billy is an A10 fruit juice tin with a length of 8 guage fencing wire for a handle but bushwalkers' aluminium billies are acceptable; the A10 tins are best for a decent crowd while the billies are OK for only one or two. Forget the ones with the spout half way up the side unless you've modified its handle with a bit of fencing wire so you can pour properly with only one hand; I own the patent on that modification, by the way.

Make sure that the water fills the billy; this ensures the tinning on its inside isn't burnt off by the coals, allowing rust to taint the tea.

When the water is nicely boiling, chuck the tea into the water. In colonial times the correct quantity was a BSH (British Standard Handful) but these days were chuck in an ASH for good measure. It's important to remove the billy from the fire as soon as you've chucked in the tea so that it brews rather than stews.

The next step, in one version of this ritual, is to "swing the billy." Now, there are some wallies that like to show off by swinging the billy through a full circle, meaning that it is upside down and overhead at the top of this circle. It can be done but requires practice; this is done preferably in isolation with nobody or thing that can be damaged within an acre, or even a hectare in these metric times. There is a danger that the bottom of your billy is not as integral as you think and/or its handle is up to balancing centrifugal and centripatal forces successfully. There is even the danger of a sudden loss of confidence in midswing; not as many are as good at being swingers as they imagine they would be.

Swingers with enough self assurance to not need such a display can achieve enough effect (on the tea) by just gently swinging the billy through a 30-45° arc. Another version of the ritual requires the side of the billy to be gently tapped with a small branch or large twig. The intention of all these efforts is to cause the tea clippers (the tea leaves that float and resist exposing their entire surface area to the infusing ministration of the boiled water to sink below the surface.

After the brew has ... brewed, the billy is tilted so that the tea, with its leaves now all at the bottom of the billy, can be poured into a mug. Here, we're not talking about the person who is about to consume the drink; we're describing their drinking vessel. The mug must be enamelled, as porcelain doesn't stand up too well to bashing around in the boot en route and plastic is just too declassé; stainless mugs (very popular among the neophytes) usually don't have the correct rim shape and conduct enough heat to burn the lips, spoiling the whole experience. Enamelled mugs come in a range of sizes, from 100ml up to about two litres and, in the Top End, they even come with a lid to keep the flies out so you can make the drink last for all the time between meals.

"Milk first or last" is immaterial in most places west of the Divide, as the river water will be carrying enough mineral load as to leave the drinker unaware of whether or not there is even milk in the drink. There is also the problem of whether the milk has gone off in the heat, so I have learned to do without. Mountain streams, however (like the one at
Nariel allow milk's presence or absence to be discerned. Personally, I prefer to be just able to discern the bottom of the mug through the tea so that gives you an idea of my preferred strength. Sorry, the tea's strength. That's still not right, but you get the idea.

Cheers, Rowan