Story for the Day: The Importance of Tea
Marridon's economy, and indeed its civilization, was changed forever when trade with Livanon and Lucentia introduced the great nation to tea. When it was first given to Marridon, it was considered a drink for the nobility, as it was very expensive to import. Now, however, tea belongs to all classes and is the lifeblood that flows through Marridon's veins. It is unheard of that a Marridonian does not like tea, and when Sir Damson Aelhelm, knight of Marridon, admits that he has no great love affair with the drink, he is reproached accordingly.
“Tea is the drink of gentlemen, sir knight,” said the captain. “Brewing it and delighting in its aroma and its taste is a most coveted art-form That abomination,” pointing somewhere at sea to indicate Gubbins that was, “disgraced it by nearly destroying a treasure associated with that art. You might not consider a porcelain pot as precious, but tea brewed in porcelain does not taste the same when brewed in iron or in glass. Porcelain after a time absorbs the scent of whatever is made in it, and glazed pottery so fine as this can only be used to brew the paramount of infusions.”
The Lucentian’s avid lecture was lost on Damson, but he nodded and went on mopping the deck, watching Danaco coddle his prized pot and make crooning noises at it.
“Myrellenos granted that my teapot escaped Gubbins unscathed, though I cannot say the same for him the next time he should dare show himself. Now I must find another cup and put the kettle on. Bartleby, will you have barley tea?”
“Lucentian black, thank you,” said the old man, arranging the remainder of his vials.
“Rannig, will you take your green?”
“And you, sir knight? What will you have?”
Damson’s lips parted and he looked aglifft.
“Do not look so bleak, good knight. You more than anyone else on this ship-- other than Bartleby, that is--should understand the importance of tea. When Livanon gave tea to Marridon for the first time during their first trade agreement, it practically changed Marridon’s economy. Now Marridon as a whole drinks more tea than any other nation on the Continents. There is even a Marridonian meal called tea, and another observed amongst the nobles as high tea. Marridon would be an uncivilized and barbarous confusion without the structure and stateliness that tea provides. Come, you cannot be shy or think I mean to poison you. What will you have? Lucentian rice tea? Livanese rosemary? Lemon balm? Rose nhip? Come, man. Say what you like. You can speak volumes when you are left to your ease. Tell me which tea you will have, and it will be made for you.”
“I…” Damson began, but he mumbled something which was obliged to be repeated, and the end of it was, “I have never been fond of tea, sir.”
The captain was instantly bewildered. “What will you be at, Damson? Is not fond of tea,” he chuffed. “I cannot believe you there. Madness, I tell you, not to be fond of tea. You are Marridonian. You have tea in your veins, sir knight. Bartleby, do you hear? The knight says he has no fondness for tea.”
The old man’s face floddered and he looked thoroughly confused. “Not fond of tea? That cannot be right. You must have heard wrong.”
“I say I heard right, my old friend. I made him repeat it.”
There was a terrible pause. The captain smiled in anticipation of the invective he knew was coming, and the old man glowered in sudden and violent contempt.
“What?” Bartleby scoffed, with most unanswerable dignity. “This is outrageous, sir knight--an absolute and complete outrage from beginning to end! Not like tea— absurdity and sacrilege every way. Shameful is the Marridonian who cannot like tea. You are the king’s champion—well, were—but you are a noble, sir, a lord’s son, the highborn of Marridon, the progeny of an ancient race, the paramount of a kingdom whose traditions must be upheld and cherished. It is not respectable not to like tea. It is undignified, a monstrous show of indecency. It is our national beverage, our pride, our birthright. It is deplorable to spurn it. Such conduct is unpatriotic, it is unlawful, it is reprehensible.”
“Bartleby, yer gettin’ all red—“
“Of course I am, my dear boy,” the old man shouted, flying into a captious fury, his hat flailing as he wave his arms about. “The passion of steeped leaves and stewed broth is a philter that triumphs in our veins. It is our heritage, it is our religion, it is the glory of our being. It is our honour to show the rest of the uncivilized world how a refined and educated society operates. Nothing can be done without tea. For a thing to be done right and to be done well, a hand must be furnished with a cup filled to the brim with the finest vintage of dried and simmered vegetation. There is no other way, I tell you. For a Marridon-born man not to like tea is immoral. It makes him low, shows him to be wholly vulgar and unable to appreciate and welter in all the rapture that such scandal-broth can supply. A sniveling guttersnipe might not like tea, but a knight, a member of the highest order, a banner of Marridonian heraldry, cannot dislike it. It is folly to think so, absolute humbuggery. You are one of the high boughs of Marridon’s ancient tree, sir knight. You are practically born with leaves to steep, to stew, to swelter, to sip. It is almost treasonous not to like tea. I am considered a recluse amongst Marridon’s high society and even I understand why I must like tea. It is the drink of the thinking man, to be deliberated over and deliciated, to be relished and reveled in, that all its secrets of higher cogitation might be extricated and beloved. One must immerse himself in the distillation if he is to properly understand it. To drink tea ponderously is all the learned Marridonian should ever aspire to.” Here he stopped for breath, tucked his hands together behind his back, and began pacing. “Frustraneous jackanapes who cannot comprehend tea,” he grumbled to himself, asserting with attenuated gesticulations. “It simply is not done, sir knight, not done at all. Disreputable business. I cannot believe that of you, knowing what a hearty and let me say conscious individual you are—rather seem to be. There must be some grave misconstruction. I don’t think I am understanding you quite right. No, no. You did not mean that you dislike tea. No, sir knight, you only mean to say that you have never gained a proper appreciation for it, which means you have either not had the right blend, or have not had it brewed properly. Yes, that’s it, surely. Yes, now I see. We should have the man flogged you gave you incorrect notions of tea, and we shall get you on by degrees. Thellisian white is a good place to start, for it is a somewhat weak blend, and then we shall graduate you to roasted Lucentian green, which is much the best if you are poring over an excellent volume and cannot be bothered, and then we shall have you try the various vintages of black tea. Yes, we shall teach you how tea ought to be done. We shall have you sat down in a comfortable chair, the captain will steep the leaves, and I will teach you how to drink it the way it is meant to be imbibed. You may learn with Rannig, who is only beginning his adventure into the furtile gulley of tea-drinking.”
“I like chicory and cinnamon tea with two sugars,” Rannig announced, all joyous ambition.
“You see, sir knight? And he is a Frewyn. Do you hear? A barbarian tribesman from the south is fond of tea where you are not.”
“We’re not barbarians, Bartleby.”
“You are when you soil your tea with more sugar than is warranted. If you dare follow the boy’s example, sir knight, by putting the milk in before the sugar, I shall have the giant wallop you. You will have tea with us, and you shall like it. I’ll answer for it.”
“There,” said the captain, “you cannot refute such an ingenuous invitation You will have tea with us, won’t you, sir knight?”
Damson would not dare say no: the giant was granting him eager smiles, the old man was observing him with pursed lips and a twitching eye, and the corners of the captain’s mouth were wreathed in a cunning grin. “I—“ he began in a faltering voice, but with agitation, he managed, “I should be delighted, sir.”