TEATIME TALES - TEA IN NEVERLAND IN SHADOW
A QUICK LOOK AT THE WELCOME PRESENCE OF THE WORLD'S FINEST HOT DRINK - AND THE RULES ONE SHOULD FOLLOW WHEN PREPARING IT
Tea causes quite the stir across Neverland in Shadow, It manifests most prominently via Mr Hook. His own private blend, Procella, has been created by Mr Crichton Gore, of Gore of Mayfair, and not even Hook himself knows the mixture's precise components.
Advertisement from 1 December 1961 copy of the London Evening Jupiter.
Procella? All was explained when Mr Hook and Mr Darling sat down for a chat:
Hook raised the cup and, for a moment, held it in the space between the two men. ‘It’s Procella. My own unique blend.’ ‘Procella?’ said Mr Darling. Hook was delighted to have attracted the query. ‘It’s the Latin for storm.’ Hook waited, as he always did at this point, for the other party to speak. It was a kind of test he’d devised. And it was one that Mr Darling passed. ‘Ah.’ said Mr Darling after a couple of seconds, ‘Storm in a teacup. Very clever.’ ‘Just my little joke.’ said Hook.
From Chapter 18, Storm Seeks Teacup
THE ELEVEN O'CLOCK CUP
Later, at Hook's workplace, Pendulum Properties, Wendy is charged with preparing Mr Hook's eleven o'clock cup, and is careful to adhere to the rules:
Hook’s tea leaves were stored in an airtight tin specially supplied by his blender, Mr Crichton Gore of Gore of Mayfair. Into a gadget called an infuser – in Hook’s case a silver whale on a delicate chain – went two teaspoons of Hook’s Procella blend. This was left in a warmed teacup of boiled spring water for precisely four minutes.
From Chapter 23, Two Wizards and a Witch
Advertisement from 18 December 1961 copy of the London Evening Citizen.
Tea is, of course, a serious business. In fact it's so serious that George Orwell took time to write an essay in which he advanced his own eleven rules for brewing the perfect cup:
A NICE CUP OF TEA
by George orwell
First published in The London Evening Standard on 12 January 1946.
If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points. This is curious, not only because tea is one of the mainstays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.
When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than 11 outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own 11 rules, every one of which I regard as golden:
First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays—it is economical, and one can drink it without milk—but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities—that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes—a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup—that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold—before one has well started on it.
Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
Lastly, tea—unless one is drinking it in the Russian style—should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.
Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.
These are not the only controversial points to arise in connection with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become.
There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet.
It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the 20 good, strong cups that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.
NO LUMPS PLEASE
As is correct, Mr Hook consumes sugarless tea. And in this post-closing grab from the story, he and Mr Darling are seen to agree on this point before discussing both the Orwell essay and the existence of ISO 3103 - the International Standard recommended to those seeking a cup of tea to be proud of.
‘That infernal woman,’ he said very quietly, ‘has sugared my Procella. Again.’ ‘Sugar.’ said Mr Darling, and like Hook he also spoke in a whisper. ‘The nemesis of tea.’ Hook nodded his head slowly, then pushed the cup to one side. ‘It was another George, George Orwell, I believe,’ announced Hook, ‘who, in his essay on tea-making, advanced the view that if one is to add sugar to tea, it would be reasonable to add also pepper or salt.’ ‘He did. In rule eleven of A Nice Cup of Tea.’ said Mr Darling, ‘That’s the name of it. Orwell’s essay, I mean.’ ‘Indeed. And a nice cup of tea,’ said Hook, tapping with his pen the offending cup, ‘this is not.’ ‘I’m an ISO 3103 man, in general.’ said Mr Darling. Impressed, Hook jumped straight in. ‘The International Standard for tea-making.’ ‘Exactly. But I’m familiar with Orwell’s essay and, really, view the two as, if not exactly interchangeable, at a minimum complementary.’ Engaged, Hook replied, ‘I, myself have borrowed from both works, culminating in what I believe to be the ultimate preparatory method. For Procella, at least.’ ‘I’d very much like to avail myself of those instructions one day.’ said Mr Darling, expressing himself, without knowing it, in Hook’s grandiose style, ‘Unless of course they are confidential in nature.’
From Chapter 18, Storm Seeks Teacup
'DRINKING TEA WITH A TASTE OF THE THAMES'
Let's wrap up by dragging fellow tea-fanatic Morrissey into this post. And we'll do that via Come Back to Camden, the glum heart of his You Are the Quarry LP from 2004.
Mozzer's reference to 'drinking tea with a taste of the Thames' was nicked for Neverland in Shadow, and is spoken by Mr Hook in a disparaging review of his PA Moira's tea-making skills.