Johnny, Tea and Me

On the weekend whilst enjoying my usual morning cup of coffee, I started thinking about how the habit had come about since during my early years, drinking tea was such a huge part of my life.

My lovely father Johnny was a creature of habit; you could set your watch by him. He was hard working, talented, and patient and had the best sense of humour.  He was also a seriously dedicated tea drinker. Right on the dot at 7.20 am every morning he would knock on my door with the newspaper and a delicious steaming hot cup of loose leaf Lanchoo Tea.  He did this every day until the day I married and moved out!

At 7.30 am he would wheel his Honda 50 or ‘Postie Bike’ out and in all kinds of weather ride to the other end of town with his crib (Broken Hill/Cornish slang for food, provisions or light meal) and thermos of tea to begin his day as an Electrician on the North Mine.

3. Johnny and Tea

Johnny Wharburton – first on the left. Electricians going underground to electrify the shaft. They would literally be lowered down in the bucket behind them.

At 4.00 pm the Mine whistles blew signalling the end of the day shift and the beginning of night shift.  You knew for certain that Johnny would be wheeling in the gate at exactly 4.20 pm and the family gathering of afternoon tea would begin! In fact I can remember most of the mining families in our street followed the same ritual. Tables would be set with the Lanchoo tablecloths carefully saved for and selected from the catalogue, along with homemade biscuits, scones, patty cakes or fruit cake cut into very small columns.

For me the words “drinking tea” stir up memories of drinking tea with the family, tea with my gran, ‘Billy’ tea on our family camping trips, thermos tea on our annual holiday trips to Adelaide, tea at smoko time on the property and tea at CWA … tea, how did we come together before tea!

“Tea is certainly as much of a social drink as coffee, and more domestic, for the reason that the teacup hours are the family hours.” Arthur Gray – The Little Tea Book.

So back to my thoughts and why now, I’m so fond of coffee.  Barry and I went walking on the weekend and came across a delightful little coffee shop.  We ordered a Latte and a Mocha which were promptly delivered with such beautiful, intricately decorated froth; we were slightly hesitant to drink them.

coffee 3

For me now my morning tea in bed and afternoon family tea has been replaced with coffee shops and cafes, lattes and mochas.  When and why did I switch my love and devotion from tea to coffee?

On moving to Goodwood Station in the 70’s I was introduced to the ‘delicacy’ of coffee and powdered milk by my father in law.  To this day, the memory of lumpy powdered milk floating in my coffee is enough to make me go many extra miles for fresh milk! In those days coffee making consisted of a teaspoon of International Roast, milk and sugar and hot water … that was it! Now we have Caffe Latte, Cappuccino, Macchiato, Piccolo, Ristretto, Espresso, Vienna, Mocha, Affogato, Long Black, Flat White – the list goes on.


Recently when I had a spring clean I found a drip filter coffee machine, plungers, a vacuum machine, a pod machine, an espresso machine and a milk frother. It seems my love of coffee has developed into something of an obsession.

Although I don’t drink as much tea now as I did in the  ‘good old days’ and it’s certainly not such a focal point in my life, it will always be like an old friend who I look upon with great fondness. As my wonderful Dad used to say, “A cup of tea can fix anything”.

Do you remember saving the end of the Lanchoo tea packet and with great excitement be able to select a gift from the Lanchoo catalogue?

lanchoo tea

3 thoughts on “Johnny, Tea and Me

  1. Dear Annette,

    I am the Cultural Officer for Galston Branch – an quoted a couple of poems in my monthly report recently. You may like this poem.

    Best wishes,
    Pam Watson

    These poems from books by Phillip Rush, a Tasmanian Author.
    From ‘Aussie poems that would Dazzle a Dingo’.
    All I wanted was a coffee at ten o’clock today,
    So I strolled into a coffee lounge that wasn’t far away.
    “Could I have a cup of coffee?” I asked the waitress there,
    As I sat beside the window on an ageing, wooden chair.
    “Cup of coffee? Not a problem – and which would you prefer?”
    “Just a coffee, thank you kindly,” was my reply to her.
    “We have a Cappucino, or Black, both long or short,
    Or Vienna, or a Latte, with milk of any sort.
    We have Decaf and Caro; we have plunger coffee, too,
    Or Flat White in a mug or cup; which will do for you?”
    This choice left me a mite confused, and so I softly said,
    “I think I’ve had a change of mind, I’ll have some tea instead.”

    “That’s no trouble, sir, at all,” and then I heard her say,
    “Orange Pekoe, Prince of Wales, or Earl or Lady Grey?
    We have both Irish Breakfast, and English Breakfast, too;
    And Jasmine and Darjeeling are both a tasty brew.
    We’ve also Lapsang Souchong, and then there’s China Black,
    Or, perhaps, you’re into herbal? We’ve many out the back.”
    I thought I was confused before, but now this waitress girl
    Had given me such choices that my head was in a whirl!
    I went in for a coffee – but that’s not what I bought:
    “Just bring a glass of water, thanks, and never mind what sort!”

  2. Brought back memories for me Annette, I do remember everything you talked about. My Dad died when I was 13 so I don’t have a lot of memories of him, but I used to help him with the milking most days. That cuppa was very important as are the memories. xx

  3. Reading this brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my Grandfather who used to treat me as a child to REALLY hot strong tea, fresh bread with serious lashings of butter and someones homemade jam. I used to adore him for this as it wasn’t something I could have at home. I think I was only four or five at the time. He used to meet me downstairs and I would ride his enormous great dane up the stairs in anticipation of my treat! Nowadays, like you I look forward to a coffee – generally a mocha – decaf, lactose free from a local coffee shop in our closest Regional town of Broken Hill as this is something I cannot make well at home. My son, (your Grandson & Johnnys Great Grandson) LOVES his tea so we do this on occasion and just dunk lots of biscuits!

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