Tea and “whiskers” (beards and moustaches, specifically) aren’t exactly what you would call natural companions. Tea is — well — liquid and often flows where it prefers. Whiskers are the antithesis — bristly strands, grabbing like minute fingers at tiny tea drops. In short, tea and whiskers are at odds. A promo for the reality show “Whisker Wars” (no, I don’t watch it — I just saw a promo) got me thinking about this feuding and how men with whiskers deal with it.
Moustaches (also known as “mobile tea strainers”) are the biggest culprits here, since beards, sitting below the lips, tend not to be able to grab the tea drops flowing from teacup to the mouth. (All tea can do to a beard is splash on it, which, if you are drinking a truly contrary and ornery tea, tends to happen.) Yet, men persist in growing moustaches and in drinking tea. (In Victorian days, the English had a saying: “a man without a mustache is like a cup of tea without sugar.”)
Shaving, in terms of the length of time mankind has strode this planet, is a relatively recent development in male grooming. Implements had to be devised first, with the earliest instances of successful shaving being seen in an artifact dating back to about 300 B.C. Considering that tea drinking goes back about 5,000 years (to about 3000 B.C.), there must have been a lot of tea-drenched moustaches around for those first 2,700 years.
So what can the modern male do?
First, keep the moustache well-groomed. That means properly trimmed so that no part hangs over the top lip. It’s those dangling strand ends that are the most grabby when it comes to liquids like tea. If that is not sufficient, try a bit of moustache wax, which is also good for forming your moustache into shapes such as the “Dali” (named after surrealist Salvador Dali) or “handlebars.” Avoid full or bushy styles such as the “Walrus” and the “Imperial.”
There are other alternatives such as specially-designed teawares called “moustache cups” and even a “moustache spoon” (used mainly for soup).
The moustache cup was first introduced in the mid-1800s by English potter Harvey Adams in the Victorian era, when Prince Albert’s fine “stash” made this facial hair styling very popular. Adams’ delicate bone china cups had a subtle but significant addition: a moustache-shaped ledge across the interior of the cup, leaving an opening in the middle through which tea was sipped. A gentleman could drink his tea while keeping his mustachioed upper lip dry. Other makers followed suit, including Imari, Meissen, Limoges, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Bayreuth, and more. There were even moustache cups made of silver. By 1930, though, the moustache cup had ceased to be produced, mainly because clean-shaven male visages were now in vogue.
Lately, though, whiskers are making a comeback, and at the same time more men are “taking to tea.” Sounds like more sturdy versions of the moustache cup are needed. For now, most of the ones available are antiques, and you might not want to risk a tea time mishap.
Maybe those guys with whiskers need to drink some tamer tea, more well-behaved where each drop knows how to avoid those tiny grabbing whisker-fingers. Or a nice big tea towel to sop the tea out of that soaked moustache!
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