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The worst cup of tea ever – the secrets of my success

Bruce Gee, owner of the Lord Nelson Refreshment Van, has earned a convincing win in the all-England worst cup of tea award 2023. Bruce attributes his success in disappointing visitors to his van in Shanklin to ‘not giving a toss’. He says that the award won’t change him, or his approach to making tea, but he did say that he is putting his prices up. Bruce credits his success to apathy and disinterest. ‘I really wanted to work in an abbatoir,’ he says, ‘but the opportunities locally are very limited. This is the next best thing.’

The judges awarded tea from the Lord Nelson the lowest marks in every category. One of the judges says that the superb awfulness of the beverages has made them consider reviewing the marking system. I wish that I could have given negative marks, said one.

In their commendation, the judges highlighted a number of things that contributed to Bruce’s success. The judges praised the effort that Bruce makes in choosing his ingredients. His teabags are the cheapest that he could find in the cash and carry. They date from around three years ago and Bruce seasons them by storing it the damp van all year round, next to the garlic and a lump of something that used to be blue cheese. This helps to give the tea its distinctive and unique flavour. The judges were unable to say where the tea was from. Although India, China or Ceylon are the usual sources, the judges’ best guess was Transnistria. Bruce impressed the judges by serving UHT milk that was actually on its use by date, and that he had stored it incorrectly to help the milk to separate. The judges noted, with approval, that small lumps of Non-Dairy KreemerTM – from a crusty old coffee jar - were offered as an alternative. Gary’s water is recycled from rainwater, via the van roof. Gary says that nearly boiling the water for tea will kill most of the bugs and that he heats his water to a precise and climate-friendly 60 degrees centigrade, as nobody wants to scald themselves.

The judges also gave the lowest possible marks to the brewing process. Bruce adds lukewarm water to the teabag and stirs vigorously for ten seconds. He then squeezes the teabag hard until the liquid is mid brown (approx Pantone 18-0840, Tapenade), and removes it, putting it aside for reuse. He says that he can't brew it for longer in case he gets another customer. He pierces the UHT milk container with his thumbnail or a dirty spoon and adds enough to cover any taste of tea. He pours the skilfully - barista style - so that the small white lumpy bits in the milk are floating on top. Customers can then add damp sugar from a sachet with foreign writing on it if they wish. Or they can have a white tablet which is an artificial sweetener of indeterminate origin. Probably.

The presentation of the tea is also important. Bruce is currently using up his stock of non-recyclable polystyrene cups. The cups are complemented with plastic lids which are not quite the right size for the cup. Bruce always allows the customer to put the lid on the cup as this often results in a merciful spillage. The overall environment, a grubby van with one matching plastic chair for customers, and parked next to dumpsters on an industrial estate, also scored zero marks from the judges. The judges accepted Bruce’s claim that he did not have any regular customers, or repeat business of any kind.

‘I’ve worked hard for this,’ says Bruce, ‘I’ve been entering for the award for a few years and its taken me a while to find my Z game, but I’ve finally done it. Cup of tea?’

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