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How did we make the largest teabag in the world?
It was me that answered the phone. Guinness World Records needed someone to break a world record that could represent the British way of life. The annual day of world records is a global event with events in many countries. They asked if we could break the record for the world's largest teabag. The record suited their needs perfectly, since tea is typically British and yet is also a global commodity which All About Tea trades all around the world.
I was happy to help. In fact, we had been thinking along these lines already. The British people love their tea. Portsmouth is a proud maritime city. It was in Portsmouth that Catherine of Braganza first introduced tea to England. What a fantastic way to celebrate the new Portsmouth Tea blend!
Planning and preparation
First, we had to choose a location. HMS Warrior is a beautiful ship which I know well. She is a symbol of how the Royal Navy combines traditional values with innovation and technical supremacy, just like All About Tea does. She is a sailing ship, so there are hoists and halyards all over the place, which would make it easy to lift the tea bag into the air for the photo. Best of all, she is staffed by experienced sailors who proved to be an incredible help from start to finish.
Next, we had to make a teabag and decide the size. I simply scaled up the existing record (68kg) to make sure we were going to beat it easily. We know a little about teabags! It was an easy matter to decide how big to make the teabag, based on using 100kg of tea. I walked across the road to Westhouse Textiles and the amazing Lynn. They could supply cotton sheeting and make the teabag to my design without great difficulty. (Lynn once made the curtains for the Indian High Commission!)
What blend to use? Again - no question. It was only ever going to be Portsmouth Tea, our newest blend, already proving incredibly popular. Strong, rich, full of flavour - it was ideal and I wanted to showcase it in this unique event and hope to reach an ever larger audience who might want to be able to try a really good teabag (something which remarkably few people have had the chance to do).
100kg is a huge teabag. It's enough for 44,000 cups of tea. But it is not large enough to make much of a dent on our stock of tea. So obtaining the tea was the easy part.
Monday 14th November
Everything was in place. In the morning I went to see Lynn. She made the teabag in a few hours. On Monday afternoon we started filling the teabag with Portsmouth Tea. This was a slow, laborious process. We had to do it by hand. None of our machinery was any help for a job like this. Lynn had left a 2 foot hole in the top of the teabag so we could fill it. We had planned 100kg, but we put 120 kg in for safety. I knew that some might spill, and that errors in weighing the teabag might reduce the "official" weight a bit. So I thought it best to err on the high side.
The tea bag was now finished, and very difficult to handle - much harder than the equivalent amount of tea sacks. We put it on a pallet and lashed it down so that we could move it easily. We wrapped it in brown paper and polythene to keep it clean and dry and went home for the night.
Tuesday morning - 15th November
The day of the test run. I was rather nervous. I was confident about my designs, but I would not be able to relax until I had seen the teabag hoisted into the air and weighed without mishap. My main concern was that the stitching on the teabag would not hold. I trusted Lynn completely, but the teabag was so huge that I really thought that the whole thing might burst and scatter tea all over the deck of the Warrior.
We use an excellent freight company, 2mv Logistics in Portsmouth. Last week they delivered 3 tonnes of Ceylon tea that they had collected from our auction broker in Sri Lanka. This week they were entrusted with the world's largest teabag. We loaded the truck with the teabag and a large scaffolding pole that was to be used to hang the teabag from. I had specified a channel along the top of the teabag for this pole. The aim was to spread the weight evenly and safely and provide a strong fixing point to sling the teabag. Portsmouth Demolition found it for us. We also needed some rope, some tea chests (for decorative purposes), and some clamps to prevent the slings from slipping.
We should have used a small "Euro" pallet not the normal, larger size. We moved the teabag across onto a Euro pallet so that we could get it up the brow (ramp) onto the ship. It was quite hard work. We should have done it at low tide, when the slope would have been less steep. But it was soon on board so no harm done.
We had already decided where to rig the teabag. The hoist on the port side of the mizzen mast was ideal - out of the way of the tourists, with a lovely backdrop of the Spinnaker Tower in the distance, and one of the ship's boats in the foreground. The ship was going to change her usual flaghoist for the day, to read "Portsmouth Tea" instead of "Warrior 1860", and with some camera angles that would also show up nicely.
After not too much fiddling around, we succeeded in getting the teabag off the deck and into the air. The ship's Rigger had very kindly come to help, and he had brought his heavy duty digital load cell to give us the most accurate weight possible. The record is totally about the weight of the teabag, not how wide or how tall it is, so this was important.
We made several adjustments to the positioning of the teabag to get it to sit as evenly balanced as possible. It looked really good and Robin Lander Brinkley, our PR Advisor, announced that he was happy.
All that remained was to stow the teabag away safely for the night and await Wednesday and the arrival of the Lord Mayor and the Guinness World Records adjudicators.