Thursday, 31 December 2009


A week ago I said that the rations in our ration book looked generous. With the main rationing shop for the month due on the 2nd of January, they may well turn out to be.

But they also may well turn out to be completely inadequate. I bought the first rationed item yesterday: tea. We're almost out of tea bags (I'm letting supplies of rationed goods run out so we can't cheat next month) so it was an ideal time to get loose tea under rations.

The tea ration was 4oz (just over 100g) a month; the rationing of tea was not because of shortages but because of the shipping space in bringing it from Undivided India. Now, between us, that's 8oz for a month, which sounded a lot in my head. Metrication means you can't buy 8oz, but you can buy the nearest metric equivalent, 250g (8.8oz), so already I'm cheating the ration. But here's the rub: how on earth am I going to make 8oz of tea last a month? This is a tea household. After my morning coffee, uncommon in the UK in the 1940s but not unheard of, I drink tea. Four or 5 cups a day. CJBS drinks more, although he adds herbal stuff to that - other than peppermint, I don't touch such insipid concoctions.

If I remember loose tea correctly from the early 80s (when bags were still thought to be the sweepings of the tea factory floor), it went further than bags because you made it in a pot rather than in the mug. Certainly I've been wasteful of tea in the past - staying in hotels quite often, I can make a hotel teabag go for three cups at a push, whilst at home one bag == one cup. But the process of "refreshing" a pot of loose tea is a lost talent for me now.

But the tea I've bought, which must last a month, is in a teeny-tiny container. I'm looking forward to reducing the fat intake over January, and to reusing leftovers, and to making do with very little and eking out supplies. It'll be a challenge and it'll be fun and it'll be educative. But doing without tea? Well, that'll test the Dunkirk spirit and no mistake.


Kecske said...

Coffee for many people back then meant Camp Coffee - I think it's revolting stuff, but according to his biography William Hartnell would go in to a real sulk unless it was provided everywhere he worked. Maybe if you had a bottle of that it would help the tea to last longer?

RJ Graham said...

It probably would, if only because of the projection vomiting at this end! However, CJBS says that he'd like to give it a go, so I'll get some tomorrow. Thanks for the suggestion!

Bods said...

Life without tea - doesn't bare thinking about.

Tanya Jones said...

I love Camp coffee, so I would have been alright on that score! I'm reading this blog back to front, so looking forward to reading about the experiment itself.

Gill Slane said...

As someone who describes herself as a "tea-based lifeform", this is the one part of your experiment I'd most dread too, were I the one doing it! Under the stress that must've been inevitable during wartime, I'm sure everyone needed their soothing cups of tea even more than usual.