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What is Tea Duelling?

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What is Tea Duelling | Steampunk Activities | Steampunk UKWhat is Tea Duelling?

It doesn’t get any more dangerous in the world of steampunk than with the tension tightening game of tea duelling, played at conventions, parties and events across the world. For those who have little truck with the world of steampunk it might be a surprise that this particular challenge has both a history and a set of strict rules. For the rest of us it is a game of skill and nerve and certainly not for the faint of heart.

What you need for a tea duel

Tea is the first prerequisite, made with in a proper pot with a spout and handle. There is no place for muddy coffee or frothy chocolate. It’s tea or nothing and woe betide any steampunk aficionado if they attempt to go off message.

Two cups of tea also require dunking biscuits. These can be any biscuit but for a duel they often come on a serving plate as a selection of types. Since its humble beginnings the choice and variety of biscuit has become important with some favouring chocolate hobnobs whilst others going for the traditional rich tea.

You need two cups of tea and two adversaries, known in the steampunk world as Dunkers. The tea is also poured by a single individual who is given the mysterious and noble title of Pot Master. Cups have to be the same size and shape – preferably identical – to avoid any advantage being given to one player or another.

Finally, of course, you need someone to judge the tea duel fairly and strictly according to the rules. This is the Tiffin Master and is normally a separate individual from the Pot Master though they can be the same under the exceptional circumstance where there are not enough people in the playing room. The Tiffin Master is also responsible for supplying the biscuits.

Rules of the tea duel

  • The players shake each other by the hand and then sit opposite each other at a table with a selection of biscuits laid out on a plate ready for the battle.
  • The Pot Master then uses his great skill to fill each of the opponent’s cups so that they are equal.
  • The Tiffin Master then advances and will ask each player to choose their weapon from the tray of biscuits. This is where the skill and experience comes in handy and different biscuits will have different properties and players will also have individual preferences.
  • Once a biscuit has been chosen, it cannot be replaced. On the order of dunk, players will lower their biscuit into the tea and the Tiffin Master then counts to five.
  • On completion of the count, the biscuit is withdrawn and the soaked end eaten. This must all be consumed for a player to claim, under the rules of the tea duel, a nom.
  • The winner is the player who finishes their dunked biscuit last.

Whilst it may seem like a simple game to some, over the year’s specialist strategies have been developed that players will use to gain an advantage including how biscuits are held and the type of confection chosen. Tea duelling has become a steampunk staple that requires a huge amount of nerve and skill, a lifetime of practice and a thorough understanding of the relationship between hot tea and the huge variety of biscuits on the market today. 

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