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Nowadays we might call it abuse, but back in the mid 70’s I didn’t question it. I was told to drink tea by my teacher Ken Parkinson (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) so I did.
Ken was already in his 70’s when I went to him to learn about gemmology. He was always smartly dressed in a brown tweed suit (including waistcoat) and was mercurial in the way he moved around his office.
Ken usually rang me up before a lesson to get me to bring him some Erinmore tobacco and moustache wax. I suspect Ken must have been a regular at the corner store as they sold both those things.
Our lessons would start with tea. As a coffee drinker that was abhorrent, but Ken insisted as I was British, I had to drink tea. The tea arrived on a tray, with matching tea pot, china cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl. I had to drink it with lots of sugar at first to get it down, but that’s no longer the case.
During the tea pouring ceremony (because it was a ceremony with Ken) he also started to fill his pipe with the tobacco I had brought. Padding it down, sucking on the pipe, and taking great care with this ritual. The fact his handlebar moustache was ginger in the middle and white on the ends reflected the years of pipe smoking.
I loved those lessons, surrounded by cases of gemstones, sourced from around the world by Ken. Learning to open gemstone packages and Ken’s rather un- PC mnemonics for Mohs scale of hardness, getting to grips with spectroscopes and refractometers, filters, microscopes and the names and beautiful shapes in which gems grow. It was fascinating. My love of tea began then too.
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