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Best cup of tea?
One example would be after spending all day working in the hot and physical environment of a steam locomotive footplate. A tin mug of "footplateman's tea" (very similar to "builder's tea", except a different environment), with water boiled in the locomotive's firebox, and the tea brewed in a traditional tea billy. Milk and two or three spoonfuls of sugar are added. Sometimes it's made with condensed milk, as ordinary milk tends to go off during the course of a hot day, and sugar gets congealed in the damp atmosphere of a locomotive footplate.
The other common example which springs to mind is when, after spending hours riding in the back of a lorry in the fifty degree (Celsius) heat of the Sudanese desert, you come across a small grass-roofed stall by the side of the road where a woman is selling hot black tea flavoured with mint, cloves or other spices in small tea glasses with about six spoons of sugar (you have to negotiate hard to get that reduced). You might think that what you need is a long drink of cool water, but actually the hot sweet tea is much more refreshing.
I have a ghillie kettle - I think there are different spellings. It's basically a water jacket surrounding a flue with a hole at the bottom where you can stuff dry grass, twigs and other small combustibles, light them and boil the water. I think it comes from the Gaelic word ghillie, which means a sort of gamekeeper, a chap who accompanies and takes care of the rich when they are hunting or fishing. I have used my ghillie kettle when camping.
Of the things I mentioned in my post, a billy can (at least in railway terminology) is an enamel can where the lid is an upturned tin mug. It has a wire handle at the top that you can use to hang it over a fire. Billies are referred to in Australian folklore (cf Waltzing Mathilda) and I presume that's where the term came from. On a steam loco we don't usually put the billy itself into the firebox - instead we use an old tin can with a wire threaded through the top. When it's boiled, we tip it into the billy with the tea bags to let it brew. We then add the milk and sugar (or condensed milk).
"Builder's tea" is a slang term in the UK for the tea which construction workers reputedly used to drink all the time - hot, thick, milky and sweet. LIkewise "footplateman's tea", which railway locomotive crews drank, as explained.
Tea by a campfire is pretty good, especially after setting up camp and everyone is sitting down after having changed out of clothes that have gotten wet in some fashion. The air is damp but clothes are dry and warm. At that time, it was mom's giant black kettle right in the fire, retrieved with a stick, and tea out of speckled-blue tin cups.
(from The Adelaide Advertiser Sept 18 1937)
More than you ever needed to know about the Aussie billycan!
And just a poster from 1940s Australia!
Thanks for that explanation. I learn something new every day!