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The International Writers Magazine: Not Your Average Cup of Tea

Wassa Tea, Wassa Tea for Me
• Norman A. Rubin
"A tea bag was almost a trigger to World War Three,” declared the Old Major as he addressed the old timers, nine in all, setting around the warm barrel stove in the center of Lem's Feed and Grain Store.


The Old Major was going on eighty-three years, gray haired and straight as an arrow, albeit a bit bent in posture. Then he looked stern with his dark eyes on a patrician face and called out, “Sure as hell fire. It was twenty-three years ago in the past when a major conflict could of broken out over a tea bag."

One of the elders, a Farmer Jones who put away his hoe upon retirement, now cranky and bent with age yelled with a hoarse voice, “your full of malarkey if you could expect us to believe your words!”

The Old Major was put out on the foolish remark, as he put it.  His face to his beaked veined nose was reddened in annoyance. His words shot back, “Now my dear 'fellah' if you could shut your flapping mouth and listen to my words and probably you could understand!”

Then with an 'ahem' or two the Old Major started to tell the tale.....

The Wassa Tea Company where the whole business over a tea bag began, actually started as a family owned enterprise established in Poland. After the Second World War it was transferred to a site in the Lower Galilee in Israel. The surviving owners being Ladislav Wassa, a rotund feller with a cherubic face nearing 65 years of age and his stout Sister Anna Wassa was stern as exhibited on her facial features.The son, Yigal amongst the brood of Ladislav's five children was the manager of the factory under the strict supervision of Anna. He was a typical Sabra (native born), youthful and full of energy.

The Wassa Tea Company Ltd. was producing tea for tea strainers, tea pots, samovars and tea kettles. Their tea was the favorite of people who liked tea without any gimmicks and straight from the package. Their best customers were the Bedouin of the Desert as it was their  custom to visitors to their tents to offer them freshly brewed tea.

The plant provided employment to thirty workers mainly Russian immigrants where they could get surplus tea for their samovars along with their paychecks. Tea made the Wassas comfortable with simple profits. Yet the Jewish holidays were a boon as they offered the buyers a gift wrap tin of tea along with some bonbons. 

Then suddenly one spring morning Yigal convinced his old man and his stern aunt to get into the tea bag business as a sideline to the tin box with just tea. Well the owners with persistent persuasion got a loan, bought the right apparatus for filling tea bags, packing in small packets, fifty tea bags to box. They advertised with small ads in local newspapers and radio with the jingle, 'Wassa Tea, Wassa tea for Me, Wassa Tea for We'. But with the advertising campaign and the jingle Wassa Tea Bags , fifty tea bags in a packet, didn't quite catch the customer's eye and few were sold. Fifty Packets to a carton was piling up in their storeroom as Wassa Tea Bags couldn't face the competition from large producers and foreign brands. Red was in the balance sheet and for Ladilav and Anna Wassa loomed the bankruptcy court.

Yet there was a miracle that got then out of the doldrums. Yigal's friend, Moshe, another youthful Sabra, came back from Australia with a bundle of  tea leaves 'Teamborkis Verpofolia'  that had a long lasting flavor.  He had tried to fob the package of tea to the big concerns, but he was shown the exit. Then he remembered his friend Yigal, manager of the Wassa Tea company in the Lower Galilee.

Moshe was a nice looking lad and physically fit on his tall body. And he was a trusty soul. Moshe told of his adventures hiking the plains and hills of Australia. While he was trekking along he came to came to the Wyndcom Hills where he saw a path leading through hills  leading to 'Borobulu' valley. The valley was filled with  a wondrous array of sweet scented and colorful flora, and full leafed trees of all kinds.

When Moshe was admiring the beautiful and rich scene, he was accosted by an aborigine with a smile on his face. The native greeted Moshe with his right arm in the air and saluted him with words that sounded like garbled Yiddish. The aborigine beckoned Moshe to follow him...

The cranky Farmer Jones got riled up and interrupted the Old Major and yelled, “You are full of what makes the grass grow green if you want us to believe an Australian aborigine speaks garbled Yiddish!”

The Old major yelled back, "If you listen with your ears instead of your flapping mouth then I would try to explain how the natives spoke the Yiddish lingo."

Way back when the privy council of England ruled that convicts could be sent to penal colonies Down Under; the prisoners chained to their ankles could make useful and cheap labor. Well, there was an eleven people of the faith from Whitechapel district of London amongst the batch of convicts. I won't go into their criminal past, but they congregated together and spoke the Yiddish lingo to the annoyance of the guards.

Well, to make a long story short – they were chained together under a brutish guard who called them foul names and made fun of their religion. They were made to clean out  a hidden billabong in the wilds of Australia. Suddenly one the Yids lifted up his shovel and whacked the guard into cuckoo land, then he took the keys from the stunned guard and unlocked his and his comrades chains. Then he fixed the manacles to the legs of the guard and threw the keys to the end of the billabong. Without a thought they took gourds of water and fled in the wilds of Australia.

They eventually, after much hardship, found the path through the Wyndcom Hills leading to the hidden valley of Borobulu. There they were greeted by the aborigines that lived in that splendid, fertile and flowering valley. The eleven runaways of the Hebrew faith were absorbed by the populace, married with their maidens, had a lot of kiddies. Yet they kept their religious practices and their Yiddish lingo; and today the aborigines in the Borobulu valley don't work on the Sabbath which is Saturday, don't mix meat and milk dishes, don't raise pigs and some of the Yiddish lingo crept into their talk talk.

Moshe gave a description of the valley of Borobulu and its contented inhabitants. "One thing that was strange was their beverage of their choice was tea. A small bundle of tea was dipped in cups of hot water twelve times, all with the amber color and all with a refreshing taste. It was most remarkable. So, I bringing you this package of tea as the large tea companies gave me the boot."

Yigal looked at Ladislav, who looked at stern Anna and Yigal said, “What the heck, let's give a try.” The workers prepared the small packet of Borobulu tea, cleared the assembly line of the regular tea, and put the valley tea on line. Yigal pulled the lever and assembly line went click click, boom, swish and the tea bags, fifty to a box, emerged with a flop.

As the assembly line finished its run, silence reigned in expectancy. Twelve workers, Russian immigrants, came with twelve steaming glasses of hot water. Ladislav was given the honor to tip one tea bag removed from the box into the glasses. Tension was in the air. He then dipped the bag into the first glass and the water was colored amber and it had an intoxicating aroma. The next glass was tried with same results. With a shaking hand he dipped the tea bag in the remaining ten glasses also with same results. Jubilation was in the air marking the new Wassa tea bag, 'Wassa tea, Wassa tea for me, Wassa tea bag twelve cups of tea.'

Moshe was given the title of purchasing agent. He went back to the Bolobulu Valley and negotiated with the inhabitants for their tea leaves. When the first shipment of tea arrived the Wassa tea bags production went full steam ahead. Arrangements were met – ads were placed – and orders flocked in – and  Wassa tea bags, fifty to a box, saw thrifty housewives lined up at supermarkets and groceries all over Israel to buy the twelve cups of tea bags.

All of sudden labor disputes broke out in Israel when a custom of leaving the ordinary tea bag for another cup of refreshing cup of tea was denied by the managers of the blue collared workers  The Tea Ladies of governmental offices struck for more pay for more work as the clerks reveled of the twelve cups for one tea bag and they wanted more hot water in their glasses. Crisis loomed for the government of Israel.

The Peace Conference between Israel and Palestinians stalled calling each other cheaters when they competed the challenge of how many a glasses of tea a Wassa tea bag can make. And the protesters for the Palestinian cause just simply protested not knowing the issue.
The Syrian president pushed aside the killing of its citizens and ordered the armed forces to the Israeli-Syrian border to stop the smuggling of Wassa Tea Bags.
The UN Atomic Commission dunking Wassa tea bags, twelve cup to one tea bag, discussed the atomic program of Iran for the umpteenth time. An agenda by the Indian and Nepalese tea pickers got a resounding vote at the Useless Nations to condemn Israel. Even the Greek economy blossomed upon the import of Wassa Tea, twelve cups to one tea bag.
The Labor Federation of France and Italy called strike action for a demand for a thirty hour work week, calling a calling a halt to public transportation with the result housewives couldn't go the supermarkets for Wassa Tea bags, one bag twelve cups.

And in the fair country of the Queen, the teapot society called The Wassa Tea bag dunkers barbarians.

On the other hand the The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics saw their main product of Samovars, crafted in silver and bronze, dwindling in production and couldn't meet their target set by the Kremlin. The cause – Wassa tea bags, one teabag for twelve glasses of chai.  So they  stockpiled lots of atomics, missiles and other destructive weapon that can wipe out humankind.  Whereas the coffee drinking Americans saw the threat and stockpiled atomics, missiles and other destructive weapons that can wipe out humankind.  The Hot Tea War, twelve cups to one cup, was in stride.

After a year or two of conferences and treaties a small volcano, the fiery 'Hoolu' on the Wyndcom Hills burped and spewed lava on the tea plants close to the Bolobulu Valley. Suddenly Wassa Tea Bags, fifty to a box, disappeared from the groceries shelves. Speculators made a tidy fortune by the cornering the market; smugglers stopped running cocaine and concentrated on smuggling the remaining Wasssa Tea Bags.

As the Hot Tea War cooled down the samovar production in the Soviet union met the Kremlin quota. The blue collar workers in Israel got their tea bags and the managers made a nice bit of cash selling used Wassa Tea bags on the side. Syria remove her troops from the Israeli frontier and resumed massacring their citizens. The protesters for Palestinian still protested. The French and the Italian workers continued their strike action off and on. And the Atomic Commission debated on the Iranian Atomic program without dunking Wassa Tea Bags in hot water.  And Greece well.....

Both Yigal and Moshe were rolling in cash by now and they partnered themselves to a brokerage investment company and lived the good life. But Ladislav and stern Anna junked the assembly line for tea bags and settled once again to produce tea for tea strainers, tea pots, samovars and tea kettles.

But after a few months or so a tea plant seedling broke through the lava bed in the Borobulu Valley.....
© Norman A Rubin October 2012

Honest Entrepreneurs by Norman Rubin

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