Making Billy Tea is one of those legendary pastimes where every bushy has his own method and style and fiercely disputes the quality of any tea made by any other bushy
What you need
- Tea, (Australian grown of course)
- Sugar as needed
- Milk as needed
- “Billy Can”, make your own or buy one, (A homemade billy is just a suitable sized tin can with a piece of fencing wire threaded on as a handle).
- Forked stick
- The requisite number of tin panikins (mugs) = 1 each person.
What you do
- Wait for some coals of the fire - ie when the wood has burnt down a bit.
- Put the Billy on.
- When boiling, throw in a single fistful of tea for each person and then throw one in for the pot.
- Leave on heat for another minute then pull away from coals using the forked stick on the handle to lift.
- Add 2 or 3 fresh gum leaves.
- Wrap the hot handle of the billy with a hanky (handkerchief) and swing it vertically around your head 3 times to settle the tea leaves to the bottom.
- However if you just let it sit for a minute or two and then pour carefully you still get a good cuppa.
- Or you can really spoil the effect by useing a tea strainer to remove the tea leaves and then serve the way you like it black or with milk and/or sugar.
- Nothing like a good tin mug of billy tea to start the day, and served with some damper - mmmm yum!
In colonial Australia, stockmen developed the technique of making damper out of necessity. Often away from home for weeks, with just a camp fire to cook on and only sacks of flour as provisions, a basic staple bread evolved. It was originally made with flour and water and a good pinch of salt, kneaded, shaped into a round, and baked in the ashes of the campfire or open fireplace. It was eaten with pieces of fried dried meat, sometimes spread with golden syrup, but always with billy tea or maybe a swig of rum.
The traditional recipe has been modified by some who now use self raising flour and milk as well as fancy bits like sesame seeds and herbs, but old habits die hard so I prefer the original, however I do prefer to use a cast iron "camp oven" to cook it in, saves having to brush of the coals and ash from the fire.
We have had a saying here in Australia that goes; "Only in America" as most of the really strange
stories seemed to originate there, here is one that proves the exception to the rule.
I'm telling you this story in case anyone thinks I have lost my sense of humour.
Situation: Derek Guille broadcast this story on his afternoon program on
ABC radio. (Australian Broadcasting Commission)
In March, 1999, a man living in Kandos (near Mudgee in NSW) received a bill for his as yet unused gas line stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it away.
In April he received another bill and threw that one away too. The following month the gas company sent him a very nasty note stating they were going to cancel his gas line if he didn't send them $0.00 by return mail.
He called them, talked to them, and they said it was a computer error and they would take care of it.
The following month he decided that it was about time that he tried out the troublesome gas line figuring that if there was usage on the account it would put an end to this ridiculous predicament.
However, when he went to use the gas, it had been cut off.
He called the gas company who apologised for the computer error once again and said that they would take care of it. The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that payment was now overdue.
Assuming that having spoken to them the previous day the latest bill was yet another mistake, so he ignored it, trusting that the company would be as good as their word and sort the problem out.
The next month he got a bill for $0.00. This bill also stated that he had 10 days to pay his account or the company would have to take steps to recover the debt.
Finally, giving in, he thought he would beat the company at their own game and mailed them a cheque for $0.00.
The computer duly processed his account and returned a statement to the effect that he now owed the gas company nothing at all.
A week later, the manager of the Mudgee branch of the Westpac Banking Corporation called our hapless friend and asked him what he was doing writing cheque for $0.00.
After a lengthy explanation the bank manager replied that the $0.00 cheque had caused their cheque processing software to fail. The bank could therefore not process ANY cheques they had received from ANY of their customers that day because the cheque for $0.00 had caused the computer to crash.
The following month the man received a letter from the gas company claiming that his cheque has bounced and that he now owed them $0.00 and unless he sent a cheque by return mail they would take immediate steps to recover the debt. At this point, the man decided to file a debt harassment claim against the gas company.
It took him nearly 2 hours to convince the clerks at the local courthouse that he was not joking.
They subsequently assisted him in the drafting of statements which were considered substantive evidence of the aggravation and difficulties he had been forced to endure during this debacle.
The matter was heard in the Magistrate's Court in Mudgee and the outcome was this:
The gas company was ordered to:
 Immediately rectify their computerised accounts system or show cause, within 10 days, why the matter should not be referred to a higher court for consideration under Company Law.
 Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by the man.
 Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by all the Westpac clients whose cheques had been bounced on the day our friend's had been.
 Pay the claimant's court costs; and
 Pay the claimant a total of $1500 per month for the 5 month period March to July inclusive as compensation for the aggravation they had caused their client to suffer.
And all this over $0.00.
This story can also be viewed on the ABC website.