Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Just My Cuppa Tea?

Mr Toasty at Hot Toast and Jam and friends are having a Christmas Tea party and much as I'd like to be pointing the pinkie and sipping Earl Grey out of Shelley China on the slopes in Aspen, hanging with the hoi palloy and delicately savouring my cucumber and smoked salmon ribbon sarnies and cup cakes doused with hundreds and thousands - I'm going traditional and outdoorsy. I know it's cold! But I have a campfire a cozy swag, a Dryzabone and a billy on the boil!

I thought a recipe for good old fashioned Billy Tea might be a goer.OK a Billy as we all know is what the Swagman (traveller) in "Waltzing Matilda" (song about a bedroll, sheep and a thief who drowned in a waterhole) watched boil while he was contemplating nicking jumbucks (Baa Lambs). But believe it or not, no bush campfire is complete without tea made in a billy over an open fire. Fire bans notwithstanding.

The billy itself is simply a metal cooking pot, the luxury version comes with a lid and a bucket handle. The water is boiled on an open fire and tea made all in the same pot. After a bit of use, the outside is black and sooty but the inside is kept clean. This does nothing for the tea but adds to the authenticity.

True bushies don't carry fresh milk. It goes sour in the heat. And only wusses and motel goers use long life milk. It is traditional to flavour billy tea with tinned sweetened condensed milk. (I know, a travesty for real tea drinkers - the stuff yer ma used to make toffee out of!)

You will need:
  • Strong black tea any kind is best but Billy Tea is authentic
  • Billycan of suitable size
  • Water (clean and fresh if possible)
  • Campfire - but not between October and March without a permit!
  • Tin mugs (250 ml or larger) Just because
  • Gum leaf (optional)
  • Milk, sugar or condensed milk, as available.
How to go about it:
  • Fill the billy can with water: at least 250 ml per person.
  • Cover with lid and put on the fire to boil.
  • When the water boils, take off the fire by lifting the handle with a forked stick and remove lid. Be careful – everything is very hot.
  • Sprinkle a handful of tea on the top . . use your hands people! No spoons in the bush! For 'herbal' tea, add a gum leaf or lemon myrtle, traditional bush tucker to give it a lemony zing.
  • Now for the tricky, bushy stirry bit -

    Swing the billy over your shoulder in a full circle bringing it back up past your knee then back over your shoulder and so completing a full circle. Do this three or four times. The reason for doing this is that it drives practically all of the tea-leaves to the bottom of the billy so you can pour a drink without filling the cup with tea leaves. No tea strainers other than your teeth in the bush.

  • Pour into tin mugs leaving tea leaves in the bottom of the billy.
  • Flavour with milk, sugar or condensed milk if liked.
Serve with damper and Cocky's Joy.

Keep it clean folks, a 'cocky' besides being someone who's cheeky or a sulphur crested cockatoo is also a farmer and 'Cocky's Joy' is simply golden syrup!

Use the dregs of the tea from cups and billy to pour onto the fire to help put it out before leaving the camp.

Ok I know you're all snug little snow bunnies tucked away inside in your gladrags and sipping Ceylon but for real tea-time enjoyment, there's nothing like a cool night, starry skies, a camp fire and a cup of billy tea!

Ok I'm getting cold, can I come in for a cup of Chai?


Candie said...

It's all about tea!Nice one Baino!I will arrive soon to chat with you!It's just that we don't have the same time!;)

Sarah Lulu said...

Billy tea and damper please.

Mim said...

Well...I'm amazed. I understood more words in this post than I thought I would, and would love to taste a damper and cockyjoy and tea by the fire. I can imagine what would happen when I tried to swing that bucket around.
Good one B, fun.

Gledwood said...

That fire looks good for cooking beefburgers on... well it does to me.

That retro tea... reminds me of a redbush packet I used to have when I went through a healthfood stage MANY years ago. I always called it redbush but the box said something like "rooibos" ~ summink STRANGE..!

Gledwood said...

ps I'm not back on crack. It was that last time proved I no longer like it. At ALL!

Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful! camp fire and billy tea- you've just given me another thing to add to my '1000 things to do before yoou die'!

xxx said...

I love billy tea and a nice chunk of damper.
Something I haven't had in a long while.

Great post Baino

xxx Ribbon

ian said...


The voices of the singers of A Billy of Tea could be straight out of the West of England!

i beati said...

Ilearned a lot and I would love it !!!How's your Christmas shopping coming??any spectacular finds??

Alan Burnett said...

What a fascinating post. Will you be bringing your billy can to Aspen?

nick said...

The Australian tea ceremony, most interesting. It's a shame the traditional teapot is hardly seen in Britain anymore, teabags are ubiquitous because they're so quick when you're in a hurry. But you can still get traditional afternoon tea in caffs and hotels, naturally with scones, cream and jam on the side. A bit different from billy tea!

Roy said...

Yup, this is definitely not your bone chine, pinky-sticking-out tea! Interesting approach, to say the least. Heh, heh!

http://howtobecomeacatladywithoutthecats.blogspot.com said...

Nothing tastes better than a cuppa hot tea around a campfire! Especially with a round of "A Billy of Tea" with musical accompaniment. Careful swinging that billycan!

Michael said...

Well Baino, I realise it will be far too late for you when tea begins here but perhaps you can pop in for the After Tea reception? Never mind though, I see you've done a marvelous job of hosting your own tea there in Aussie land. And how fascinating it is too. Wow, I never realised jsut how foreign Australian even can be! I learned sooooo much. I loved this post adn that Bily tea? Can't wait to try it! now, as for "cokjoy"--sorry, but there is simply NO WAY I can see myself ever stading in queue somday to order that! Ha.

I loved the jig you've included too. OK, time for some singing round the fire then! :) Never mind if you've already gone to sleep under the stars, in virtual teas, we can connect whenever!

BTW, I am taking your recent comment left on the RSVP post and moving it up to this morning's. I really want people to enjoy your Aussie campfire. Brilliant I tell you. Also, i will be posting an update link n my sidebar to you for those who have been kind enough to write somthing up and promote the Tea. you are too kind. So, anyway, be sure to look at my side bar and find yourself there too.

Cheers. Well, I think I'll sleep here under the stars abit and enjoy the warmth before popping back over to my frsoty Aspen lodge! :)

Kate Hanley said...

I so have to try this. This was fantastic! I'm not sure about swinging in a circle but I guess with practice....

Brian Miller said...

how cool. i will have to try this. i have made coffee over the fire...nothing like it, but never tea...like this. see you at tea in a bit...

Annie Jeffries said...

Now THIS is a fantastically unique tea. I'm hurrying over to join in the fun RIGHT NOW!!

Lizzie said...

Baino, so lovely that you have joined us here in Aspen for tea. I love your touch of the outdoor style tea!

Betsy Brock said...

Everything tastes better around a campfire, right? This was a splendid idea! And I actually learned a thing or two while I read your post! :)

Kat Mortensen said...

The damper is making my mouth water! I haven't got any gum leaf. What does that do, anyway?
I think the billy can ritual might get ugly if it gets in the hands of Bertie and we've just got him settled in a corner with his gin.

Christopher said...

Oh my, you've got me wanting to pull out my Rolf Harris CD and listen to "Waltzing Matilda", or my Bullamakanka CD and listen to "Home Among The Gum Trees" while making billy tea in my backyard. And I might have to add a couple of things I learned from singer Paul Killingly. The first is, wear a hat with corks hanging from the front to keep the flies out of your face. The second is, tie strings around your trouser legs just below the knee to keep snakes from sneakin' up your leg. Okay, maybe I'll skip all that and just have a cuppa here at work.

Mary said...

I'm useless at bucket swinging so you'll have to do that part!! As as for 'damper', will that be scones by chance? Love 'em and would be in heaven with golden syrup too. Can't you just tell I was raised in 'the old country' where treacle pud. and spotted dick were Sunday puddings, ha! ha!

Great post - hope to catch up with you in Aspen.

Baino said...

Only round a camp fire Sarah

Good on you Mim we'll make an honorary Aussie of you yet.

Rubois tea? I'ts awful stuff Gleds. Good news on the crack. Don't go back.

Cinnamon, I'm not mad on the damper bit frankly, it's just a big scone really but I can swing a billy.

Ribbon I think I prefer butter on my damper.

Or Ireland Ian. I guess our convict and European legacy lives on. The music is the same but the lyrics very parochial.

Certainly Alan as long as I can come in later for some mulled wine!

Hehe Nick, not quite the civilised tea savouring of Japan or Europe. High tea is a big thing here at the moment.

Well Roy, something different .. change is as good as a holiday they say.

Too true Larew. Although no campfires for us for a while, it's fire season.

Mmmm you don't 'order it' you make it on the camp fire as well. It's basically a big scone! Easy peasy. Yeh well Aspen's a long way and too cold for my tootsies.

Brian the kids will be impressed if you can swing the can without a spill!

It's easier than it sounds Kate, you'll nail it in one. Although perhaps a few practice rounds with cold water first.

Good on you Annie. I'm off to have a look to see what you've all been up to while I've been asleep!

G'day Lizzie, and welcome to the dark side!

Baino said...

Betsy I think you're right. We do have little fires in our back paddock during winter and it's not unusual for us to 'pop' a can of beans or bake the odd potato! Although our drinks of choice are usually a beer or a glass of wine!

Haha Kat, the gum leaf makes it taste awful! They have a very strong eucalyptus flavour. I think whoever thought up that one might have had one fall into their billy by mistake!

Nooooo . . .not Rolf Harris . .surely you don't own one? And nobody wears hats with corks! Or drinks Fosters frankly. Have a listen to Paul Kelly. Gators or tying your trousers isn't such a bad idea. Stops them getting stuck in the spokes of your bicycle too!

Mary exactly the same as scones only cooked in one lump and broken apart. Bushman's bread I guess. Ah most of our traditions hail back particularly to England and Ireland. It's the nature of our origins I guess.

Tess Kincaid said...

Oops, I'm getting a little dirt on my mink muff! Still glad I stopped by on my way to Aspen. See you there!

The Blog of Bee said...

This definitely sounds like a 'must do'. Hope Alan B makes it out of Sweden so that you can show him your billy can!

Tom said...

can't you get lockjaw? Ouch! I can't go more than a couple hours without a cup o' tea, but Billy Tea sounds downright uncivilized! I definetly need to give this a go! Thanks for the recipe!

Jasmine said...

Hi Baino,

What a lovely post. I saw your response on Roys World and wanted to come over and say i agree completely.

You take care x

Kath Lockett said...

That is EXACTLY what I want for breakfast now. Please.

Anonymous said...

Heh, I've made camp coffee like this...no, really...

Candie said...

Bainooooooooooooo!!!!Where are you?!I got a glass(bottle)of Champagne for you!

Grannymar said...

That tea sounds like the stuff my father described from his young days when they went to cut turf in the bog!

Ronda Laveen said...

Thanks for the how-to on getting the leaves to the bottom of the pail. Wow! Loved this. More Cocky's joy, please.

Rowe said...

Excellent tea party, Baino. Love it!

Barry said...

I've just been to the dentist for a cleaning so my fillings should withstand this.

A heaping mug of Billy Tea please!

Kathy G said...

Your tea sounds wonderful...so exotic to an American living in the middle of the country.

Glad I stopped by.

Jen said...

Wonderful post! And so nice to meet you. This billy tea is wonderful! I'll have to try it sometime at home :) But now, I see a cup of steaming lavender Earl Grey calling to me...


Mike said...

I like to put a cup of tap water in the microwave and after one minute, throw a Lipton tea bag in it! That's OTIN tea! lol

Anonymous said...

Hey Baino,I've put on the Akubra, and I'm sitting over at Textilosophy with the enamel mug, waiting for you to pay a visit.Great pics!

River said...

Nice story Baino. I remember making "almost" billy tea with my brother and the kids from the local caravan park for a few summers. The caravan kids would build a fire on the beach and we'd all turn up with a handful of tea leaves along with whatever scones or biscuits we could pinch from our kitchens. The billy was a big old milking pail. No one brought milk, I always brought sugar. Sadly this didn't last long as several families didn't continue coming back once the kids were bigger.
I wonder if todays bushies carry teabags instead?

River said...

P.S. There was no bucket swinging, it was too big. We stirred it with a big old wooden spoon.

kj said...

have tea with me. PLEEEASE!

and bring your camera. your shots are toasty fine.


Baino said...

Look out for the Peta pals there Willow!

Haha . . well I think I'd rather use a tea bag Bee!

Lockjaw? As in the toffee? I'm sure that's made with condensed milk?

Hello Jasmine. Well it's part of a blog game on the 1st December. Come back again!

Damper Kath? I dunno always thought it was a bit overrated. I prefer scones and cream and jam . .

I bet you have Subby!

Hehe . . Candie, you know you're a girl after my own heart! Yum!

I'm sure lots of people have made billy tea Grannymar. I think the old billy is a camping stable for those who really rough it.

Or you could just use tea bags Ronda!

Thanks Rowe, trust me to be a bit outside the box.

Hey Bazz . . .you could go without the syrup!

Thanks Kathy but it's rustic rather than exotic.

Pleasure to meet you to Jen. The problem with these gatherings is there are so many new blogs to visit! My weekend is just about accounted for!

Of course you do petal. It leaves you more time to play with your dolly!

No worries Pam, I'll be over tonight!

River we've done it a lot in the past but camping in summer usually means no open flame so we had to resort to the gas stove. Ha! Nothing wrong with the container, it's the great outdoors that last! I'm sure they do carry tea bags.

Hehe . . not my pics this time kj. It's December. Fire ban time so . . .

Unknown said...

Great post!!! Nice to meet with you too fellow Aussie!
Enjoy your tea :-)
So hard to try co-ordinate with the time differences!!

Candie said...

Hi Baino!How's your head?Mine hurts!LOL!

Otin,it's not because you did prefer to stay at home singing some little songs with GI Joe that you have to come and spoil our party!

Sage said...

thanks for stopping by, and to answer your question what happens to the story, I am not too sure I was going to publish it, but chickened out for two reasons, 1 because I didn't want unwanted criticism, I would prefer constructive instead and secondly I didn't want it 'borrowed' by someone else and have to have issues of copyright.

Hope you enjoyed the christmas tea, it was lovely to meet everyone.

FireLight said...

Hello down there! Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere. Trust me, I am such a tomboy most of the time, but I DO love dressing up for special events! The Christmas Tea was such great fun!

Chemin des Muguets said...


Thanks for stopping by for a cuppa. I am sorry I missed you at the tea party. But glad when you stopped by. When I was in Estonia, a few years back, mittens were all you could buy. No frig magnets in sight.

Thanks for the narrative about Billy Tea. I lived in Flinders on Mornington Penn., and never had any.



The Jelly Monster said...

How is it my dearest, that whenever I read your blog I always get an Australian song stuck in my head....

Hee hee hee

Deborah said...

Hello, and pleased to meet you! Just wanted to stop by and thank you for welcoming my son home.
**blows kisses** Deborah

Susan at Stony River said...

Sounds like a great excuse for a fire and a tin of condensed milk LOL The swinging the can round in a circle is a great visual!

One of my son's therapists just came home from a holiday in Australia, and from the way she's talking I wonder if there aren't plans to go back very soon, and for much much longer---like a lifetime? She loved it.

Unknown said...

I have Scotish tea but I keep it for a very glorious moment. :D

Renee said...

Love it Helen, but now I am ready to kill you because I can't get the song waltzing matilda out of my head.

Thanks sweet friend.

Love Renee xoxo

e said...

Well, I'd be no damn good at swinging that bucket, I can tell you, but the tea sounds interesting at any rate!


My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Met you at Mr. Toast's Christmas Tea yesterday in Aspen and just had to stop by to say Hi and how much I enjoyed meeting you..

I'll be following along too...

More later,

Megan said...

I'm trying this next time we go camping.

Michael said...

Baino, jsu tto say thank you so much for keeping it toasty down under too! how very delightful indeed. Thank you, thank you!!

Baino said...

Yep twas fun Dragonfly. The only problem is all the new blogs to visit. Just can't be done . . .

Hehe . .Candie you're the first person I've met who has a virtual hangover or were you imbibing like me whilst blogging? Haha I love Otin's dolly!

Hiya Sage. No worries. It was fun but took me forever to read everyones contributions. Then we're on summer programming here so it's better than telly. I often wondered what happened to the Nano thingy stories. So many people enter but I don't know where to go to read them.

Hello too Firelight. I tried to catch everyone although some hadn't posted a 'tea' blog so I moved on.

Chemin the pleasure was all mine. Haha . . well I have a mouse pad and some earrings so I'm not complaining.I'd like to go there myself one of these days. Mornington's pretty posh. I doubt they swing a billy down there, more likely a golf club at the National.

Ello Jello . . sorry chief. I'll try to post something a bit more groovy baby. Yeah!

No worries Debs I have seen you around particularly on Ces' blog and it must be wonderful to have your soldier boy home.

Perhaps a bit of billy tea would do you some good Suze. Condensed milk! God can you imagine. Awful stuff. I actually saw coffee flavoured condensed milk on the supermarket shelf the other day . .in a TUBE! Ah just another country really with a bunch of people who don't really give a shit. The sun is shining tho!

Ropi . . Tea is for everyday . . .not just glorious moments. If you wait until you become Emperor, it might have gone mouldy.

Sorry Ren. Really . . .then distraction is a great pain reliever! Always look on the bright side of life . .de dum . .de dum de dum de dum. . (oops did it again)

Oh e of course, you can do it sitting down silly!

Well thank you Ms Farmhouse. I'll try to follow too but there are HEAPS of new blogs.

Toasty it was a pleasure. I just wish I'd had a little more time to be creative. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed Willow's ball during the winter too and it's great to see so many people taking part. Good on you.

Unknown said...

I drink tea everyday but it is a special tea.

laughingwolf said...

damn, baino... gotta try that!

Jay said...

It's odd really, I'm thinking 'Ewwwww!' about the billy tea, and only because adding condensed milk will make it sweet and I drink my tea unsweetened. However, I looooove condensed milk. Contradictory? Moi?

Great post, Baino! I'm almost out there with you .. but where's our damper recipe?

ashleigh said...

That photo of the billy in the fire... FANTASTIC. You should frame it.

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