Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tea company created world's first business computer

Go figure, the computing revolution started at a tea company.

A recent story from the UK Telegraph looks back at the history of LEO, the world's first business computer — which came from a perhaps unlikely source: "Today computing breakthroughs are made by highly-specialised technology firms, but LEO was created by J Lyons and Co, operator of tea shops, manufacturer of biscuits and founder of the Wimpy burger chain."

LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) was a series of large cabinets of vacuum tubes and circuits, which took up 5,000 square feet of office space. Its job was to calculate bakery distribution and eventually tea production. It also stole the jobs of hundreds of clerks, who previously did this work by hand.

Interesting to think of as you read this on a computer that fits in your lap, if not your palm. Science is wonderful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: Yes we Can

One of the best albums of all time, "Tago Mago" from Germany's acclaimed band Can, concludes on a psychedelic note with singer Suzuki's muttering/singing and beverage ambivalence. He just needs the caffeine on "Bring Me Coffee or Tea" ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blue tea for a blue day

He busied with the tea, this time scooping out a handful of blue-green pebbles which he showed to me. "Blue tea," he said. "Oolong pebbles that have been only half-fermented before drying. Beautiful, are they not? Like precious stones not yet cut." He dropped them into the warmed pot and covered them over with hot water. After a few moments, he poured out the steeped tea with a flourish. I sipped, feeling the tension of the past few days unfurl within me. It was a lovely ritual, graceful and delicate, and it embraced all I had come to like best about the East.
— from Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The two-mug method on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, American tea lovers! May your turkey-day tea experiences be oh-so much better and more refined than this guy's ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: Slow jam and toast

Enjoy this slick seasonal groove, "Autumn Tea Party," courtesy of Timo Camillo, a Russian DJ whose production company is even called TeaDrops Music ...

Timo Camillo - Autumn Tea Party (Replika Remix) by replika

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'Siri, some tea, please.'

Siri, the new digital "personal assistant" feature on the iPhone 4S, is remarkably helpful. But she can't make tea. Yet.

That hasn't stopped people from trying. One user simply requested, "Siri, make tea." The response was initially hopeful: "Right away sir. All contacts beginning with 's' deleted. Will there be anything else?"

Of course, a large number of people have tried, "Siri, tea, Earl Grey, hot." The result is usually, "Sorry, I can't look for restaurants in Japan" or other locales. Siri is no Enterprise replicator.

On the up side, Siri apparently gives great advice on where to hide a dead body. So there's that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: Coffee or green tea?

The album from Spain's Cafevintage Quartet is called "Dark Roast," but (in addition to a nice cover of Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island") it includes this song, "Green Tea," a smooth slice of electric piano jazz ...

Green Tea by Cafevintage Quartet

Monday, November 14, 2011

Everyone has their moment of discovery, dude

Morning, glorious morning. Rarely do I wake up so refreshed, so I hit the bricks — first, with Rufus, to read his his pee-mail, then on my own to the teahouse. Just a few moments of reverie and reading — reading for pleasure, a rarity for me these grad-school days — before the day's demands begin in earnest.

Next to me, at the window counter as I nibbled, two dudes. I shouldn't generalize but if I had to guess, let's say, I'd feel safe assuming that fraternal rituals were in their near past or future, and that the previous night's entertainment had involved "Animal House" quantities of beer. Ballcap Dude was so bleary that Specs Dude apparently had ordered for him.

Ballcap Dude: "This coffee is, like, really good."

Specs Dude: "Not coffee, dude. Chai."

Ballcap Dude: (a beat, then squinting into his cup, perplexed) "Chai? What's chai?"

Specs Dude: "Tea, mixed up with milk and spices. Good for you."

Ballcap Dude: (brow still furrowed, but loosening) "Tea."

Specs Dude: "You said you like it. Just drink it."

Ballcap Dude sipped again from his stained cup, and his face finally relaxed. You could see the wheels of revelation and epiphany whirring away underneath the hat, and finally he said — slowly, more to hear himself declare it than for anyone else's benefit:

"I ... like ... tea."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why, yes, I did!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: Tears of the Buddha

"I like six cups / not just one or two..." So sings fiddler A.C. Bushnell in this laid-back performance of his "Tea Song" ...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Afternoon tea piping hot amid austerity

The Economist reports this week that, even in the face of Britain's own austerity measures, one thing hasn't seen a decline — and, in fact, has seen a bit of a boost: afternoon tea.

Despite the many reports that come in periodically about the decline of tea drinking in the evermore Americanized (i.e., coffee swilling) motherland — I recently linked to yet another one here — this business article reports that tea time at the Palm Court in London's famed Ritz is "thriving," and adds:

Since 2004, the Ritz has served “afternoon” tea from 11.30am to 7.30pm; it hosts nearly 150,000 people a year. Saturday slots at the Savoy are booked up three months in advance. The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge changes its tea menu (cakes and other goodies are typically part of the package) every six months: recent offerings have included a “Valentino clutch cake” and a “Dolce & Gabbana éclair”. The economic doldrums have not hit demand; they may even have enhanced it.

Glad to hear it (even though I was not really bowled over by the Ritz experience on my London tea trip last year), though instead of bolstering the parlors of the wealthiest 1 percent I'd rather see greater growth of access to tea among the other 99.

Occupy the Tearoom, anyone?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A pot for remembering the dead

I drank some spicy chai while handing out Halloween candy last night. You?

The ghoulish fun isn't over, though. Tonight, as All Saints Day transitions to All Souls Day, heralding the celebration of the Day of the Dead — and I'm really wishing I had this stunning tea pot to celebrate with ...

Tuesday tea tunes: Take me your tea leader

This week's thematic stretch is ... a band called the Tea Cozies, doing a song called "Dead Man's Sister." Because today is the Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead. See? Huh? Right? Come for the melancholy garage-rock, stay for the incredible production values in this video, including flying saucers and laser beams...