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

“What big eyes you have, Grandma…”


So now the countdown begins for one of our biggest fundraising events, the CWA Tea Room at the 2014 Royal Easter Show, which opens on 10April and continues until 23 April, 2014.

The call has gone out to members and friends to either volunteer their time during the event or to send donations of jams, pickles and fruit cakes which will be on sale at the tea rooms and my advice here is, if you want any of these items get your skates on because hotcakes are like the tortoise to our hare when it comes to how quickly they sell!!

Equally popular are the devonshire teas, evidenced by the almost 41,000 scones produced at last year’s event and customers often comment that their show ‘experience’ is not complete without a visit to our site. Not everyone partakes of the classic afternoon tea treat; some enjoy a savoury morsel, a cold drink, the weight of aching feet and a chance to chat to our ladies.

The CWA’s ‘mantra’ of late has been that we are more than just tea and scones and once lured into the “lair” by the “bait” we take every opportunity to ensure the “quarry” leave unscathed, well fed and watered, but with a better understanding of just how heterogeneous (love my thesaurus!) our organisation is.

This traditional city/country event affords us the opportunity to espouse the diversity of our membership; be it geographical, cultural, youthful and energetic or, older and wiser. It allows us to discuss the various community and state wide projects our members’ support, the total of which is almost $750,000.00 annually. Members also embrace the chance to explain how the organisation is evolving to continue to meet the needs of the women we support.

None of this would be possible without the mammoth effort put in by the members of the Show Committee; 9 ladies who work extremely hard before, during and long after all the other volunteers have waved their goodbyes and taken their weary bodies’ home. The tea rooms would/could not operate without their energy, enthusiasm, organisational abilities and of course, cooking skills! They are “on deck” all day, every day for not only the two weeks that the show runs but before, setting up and after, returning everything to its rightful place.

It’s definitely hard work, but the sense of achievement, the camaraderie, the response from and interaction with the public, are priceless. Sometimes we just assume they love it; they wouldn’t keep coming back if they didn’t, would they?

I’m hoping to volunteer a day, early to beat the rest of you for the best jams and pickles, so make sure you say hello…….if they haven’t got me on washing up duty!


More Than Tea and Scones – We Bake Cakes Too!


I am honoured to say, as a woman in her 70’s, that I am the daughter of a very active CWA member who worked for many causes and charities in the Far West,   More than that though….I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, a friend AND I am a member of the CWA.  I like to think I am a “today” woman, kept up to date by my children, grandchildren and the wonders of the internet.

I joined the CWA of NSW in 2001 to meet new friends and join the handicraft group, hoping to improve my needlework and patchwork skills.

We are very fortunate to have four CWA branches in the ACT, all offering different things.  Prospective members can join a branch that best suits their interests. Younger members join a branch that appeals to them.  More senior members wishing to join may be drawn to the knitting, crochet, embroidery, baking, other crafts and competitions.

At Canberra Branch we are a city branch surrounded by office blocks, not very “country” at all!  We have a membership of close to 150.  The retention of these members is vital in keeping our CWA active.

Through CWA I have made many wonderful friends at Branch, Group and State level.  I have been given many opportunities that only CWA offers.  The chance to improve my baking skills, to compete at Branch level, being eligible to enter Group competitions and having entries at State level have been rewarding experiences. I have also learned a lot through the positions I was encouraged to take on within CWA including President, Vice President, Secretary, Cultural Officer and best of all Cookery Officer.

The CWA has also given me the chance to sit for and receive my judges’ badge, a wonderful opportunity!  I also received the inaugural Donna Latter prize awarded for my citation at that time.  Being involved at an official level on the State Land Cookery committee continues to be a great experience.  All members of this committee have different gifts, come from different Groups but are all happy to be associated with the CWA proud tradition of tea, scones and friendship_ but we are a lot more- we bake cakes too!  LOL

I often speak of the term “keepers”.  I like to think I am a “keeper”. It is a term I use when I turn out a really great cake for competition. It is one really worth keeping. So are the hard working members I work with!  We need more of these workers, those that join, attend meetings, help in the decision making of the Branch and have a desire to make our Association stronger.  The retention of these members is important in nurturing the younger members we hope to welcome.

While CWA is not mostly about tea and scones, the many morning teas provide the perfect base to achieve greater things.  For me, the CWA has created opportunities, encouraged new friendships and given me the chance to make a difference – now that’s quite a chance!

Why not encourage your friends to join?

In her 70’s, Barbara is young at heart. Despite her advancing age Barbara thinks of herself as a ‘woman of today’. With her email (vintagebarb) and her own facebook page, Barbara shops and banks online, and messages up a storm. Based in Canberra, Barbara is a teacher by training and classifies herself as a “home baker” – so you can imagine her surprise when she won her first CWA baking competition. One of her biggest pleasures in 2013 was walking in the Mother’s Day Classic Breast Cancer walk supported by her husband, her daughters and her three granddaughters.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Fun fact – To help celebrate Canberra’s centenary, Barbara and two other CWA ladies baked 1,000 scones in one day – using only one oven.