Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the art of tea dueling

Best Buy's Geek Squad has requisitioned my laptop for the foreseeable future (2-3 weeks!?  REALLY?!), so blogging posts and my own personal internet activity is currently limited to my work hours and whatever computer time I can mooch off of other people's machines.

Let's discuss the very steampunk sport of tea dueling.  Tea dueling is the art of gracefully dunking a tea biscuit into a "Cup of Brown Joy", soaking it for five seconds, and then lifting it and cleanly "nomming" on it- all without dripping tea, losing biscuit fragments into the tea or on the table, and doing so after your fellow duelist.

While the "American Society of Tea Dueling" debuted this competitive sport at AnachroCon in February 2012, this sport itself has been known in the UK for some time now.  Whether that be three years or 300 is anybody's guess; any attempts made by yours truly to pin down the exact origins of tea dueling has been met with failure as of the date of this post.

Nevertheless, Lord TimeTinker posted a revised version of the rules of tea dueling over at Brass Goggles.  I have reposted them here for educational purposes.

Articles of the Honourable Association of Tea Duellists
(As compiled by the signatories of The Hague Convention, December 1899)

Article 1.1 A duel as constituted under the auspices of the International Association of Tea Duelling shall be known as a "Tiffin Party"

Article 1.2 The only permissiable beverage is tea. Coffee and chocolate are strictly prohibitted. This beverage may be any blend of chai as supply allows. The combatants may add milk and sugar to taste. This beverage should be no less than 65 degrees at the time of competition. The beverage should be known as the "Brew Martial"

Article 1.3 Upon agreement of all parties an agreed alcoholic tipple may be added to the Brew Martial on the understanding that it does not unduly reduce the temperature of the Beverage. In such circumstances this shall be known as the "Toddy"

Article 1.4 The drinking vessel, known as "The Keg" shall be no less than three and one quarter inches depth. Kegs should be of pottery or metal.

Article 1.5 The provision of the Brew Martial along with the approval of Kegs etc shall be the responsibility of the "Pot Master". See section 2.

Article 2.1 The duel shall be facilitated by the appointed officer known as the "Pot Master" the Pot Master is responsible for supervision of Kegs and Brew Martial. The Pot Master is also responsible for the provision of suitable bisquits. (See section 3)

Article 2.2 The duel shall be presided over by a president/umpire known as the "Tiffin Master". When honour requires satisfaction and insufficient suitably qualified officers are present the Pot master and Tiffin master may be embodied in one person.

Article 3.1 The Tiffin Master shall supply the bisquits. Ordinarily these are "Malted Milk" otherwise known as "Cows". With agreement of all parties these may be subsituted for "Nice" bisquits, known as "Nickies". Unfortunately those honourable snacks, biscuits brown and biscuits fruit are forbidden for use in Tea Duelling under Queen's regulations. In the most dire of supply emergencies when honour must be satisfied then Digestive Wheatmeals or "Rusgetifs" may be subsituted but the size of Kegs may need to be adjusted accordingly. All other varieties of bisquits are known as "fancies" and are prohibited under the Hague Convention.

Article 4.1 Each duel should be attended by the two protagonists or "dunkers" and their seconds. All accept fully the articles of the honourable association.

Article 4.2 Should a dunker suffer a crisis of confidence and withdraw before the duel then their second should step into the breach. The second will be afforded full honours.

Article 5.1 The duel will begin with the laying out of the bisquits by the Tiffin Master. Six bisquits will be lain upon a white napkin on a serving plate. The laying out of the bisquits will be done in the presence of the seconds or in the case of a full tournament by officers appointed to this task known as "Cosies"

Article 5.2 The Pot Master will supervise the provision of the Kegs of Martial Brew ready for the duel to commence.

Article 6.1 The dunkers will take their kegs of brew martial and place them on the table which is set up between them.

Article 6.2 The Tiffin Master will place the charger of bisquits on the table between the dunkers.
Article 6.3 On the command "choose your weapons" the dunkers will each select a single bisquit. No handling or replacing of bisquits is permitted.

Article 6.4 The dunkers will hold the bisquit in one hand with finger and thumb no further than one half inch from one edge.

Article 6.5 The Tiffin Master will give the order "Ready" and both bisquits will be positioned over the appropriate keg no further than six incehs above the lip.

Article 6.6 One the command "Dunk" both dunkers will immediately and swiftly lower their bisquit into the Brew Martial. The Tiffin Master may declare a penalty "a bagging" against any dunker who unduly delays their dunk and the bisquits will be removed and discarded. Replacement bisquits will be chosen by both dunkers from the remaining four.

If a dunker is penalised twice for bagging then he or she shall forfeit.

Article 6.7 if the Tiffin Master is happy that there has been a clean dunk he shall count to five. Dunkers shall not remove their bisquit from the brew martial before the Tiffin Master calls "five".

Article 6.8 Once five has been counted and the bisquit removed the dunkers shall attempt to eat the bisquit. 94% as adjudged by the Tiffin Master must end up in the dunker's mouth for a clean "Nom".

Article 7.1 If a bisquit falls back into the brew martial this is known as a "splash" and the dunker is considered beaten.

Article 7.2 If a bisquit falls onto the table or floor etc this is known as a "Splatter" and the dunker is considered defeated.

Article 7.3 If a bisquit falls onto the dunker's person this is known as a "splodge" and the dunker is considered defeatedwith credit.

Article 7.4 Where both dunkers manage a clean Nom then the dunker who last mouthed their bisquit is considered to be the victor with their opponent defeated.
For further clarification YouTube has provided us with complete records of sanctioned dueling matches such as the one below:

As far as anyone in the steampunk community is concerned, tea dueling matches can occur any place, at any time, without specific sanction of the "Tea Dueling Societies"- as long as proper codes of tea, biscuit, and dueling etiquette are fully observed.  So dunk, drink, and be merry tea duelists!


  1. Finally, a sport I can get behind.

  2. I think I may be close to Olympic standard for this! Been practising since the age of 4... :p

  3. I hear in the Colonies they use "Tim Tams" for this sport.

  4. Would shortbread be considered 'verboten'?

  5. Would shortbread be considered 'verboten'?

    1. it's all about the timing if a bicky is too thick or too thin it will be substantially different than the appropriate sanctioned description.

    2. it's all about the timing if a bicky is too thick or too thin it will be substantially different than the appropriate sanctioned description.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Oh what perfect sport! Thank you for highlighting this delightful bit of fun, I am definitely going to connive a few friends into a friendly tea duel, in the very near future!

  8. Oh what a delightful sport! Thank you for highlighting this great contest. I am definitely conniving a few friends into a friendly tea duel in the very near future!

  9. Actually, in the Colonies we used Ginger Nuts ;) Or at least we do in Van Diemen's Land!

  10. Actually, in the Colonies we use Arnott's Ginger Nuts ;)
    Or at least we do in Van Diemen's Land!

  11. In the Wild West, we've used shortbread cookies, preferably the Chessman variety.