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||I thought you may be interested to learn that the vending machine in the physics department of imperial college (a place at the very forefront of scientific invention) has a vending machine of the 'clix' brand which in addition to the regular vending machine issues you have highlighted also revels in giving you the 60p you get back from a pound in exchange for your steaming liquid entirely in 1p pieces.|
In continental tea issues my girlfriend is currently living in Germany where they seem to have pioneered a kind of halfway house between loose leaf and the tea bag. I'm not sure if you are aware of this development but essentially it is a very long teabag which is open at one end, the theory is you put your loose leaf into the bag and then put it into your mug. The teabag is just long enough that it stands in your mug without the contents spilling over into the tea when you add water. I think they're rather clever.
Yours Peter Burgess
|Nicey replies: No I'd not heard of those DIY teabags, they sound like they could be well received by 'ALL tea bags are filled with sweepings' brigade. One such lady last Tuesday tried to tell me that those little metal ball things on chains were marvelous, that I should go to India to see how tea is really made before having an opinion on it, and that as she was a wine writer she knew a thing or two about things and I was best advised not to argue with her. I told her that we drink PG and this seemed to annoy her sufficiently.|
||A friend told me of the machine in the canteen at his university, which asked you to enter a number code for each drink. 100 was tea, no milk powder crap, no sugar. 101 was with sugar, etc. You get the idea. The machine also served cold drinks like fizzy orange, and hot soups as well. These also had their number codes. The numbers specified the ingredients, whether it was hot, fizzy or whatever. Normally you could only enter the codes listed on the front.|
The fun started when the machine went wrong, and allowed any number to be entered. The machine would then try it's best to produce Fizzy Soup, Cold Orange Coffee, and the frankly disturbing Chicken Tea with Sugar.
All revolting, including the standard tea & coffee of course.
|Nicey replies: Yes I once had to work in a place that had those. I don't think it was a malfunction that they could make stupid drinks, it was all part of the service. You could also make double strength drinks, which were twice as nasty.|
I remember the Nescafe heated coffee cans. They were useful on the odd occassion but had two major problems:
1. The chemicals required to heat up the drink took so much space that there was hardly any room left for coffee.
2. They contained Nescafe, which is a disgusting coffee and should be banned.
I also heard rumours that the heating chemicals were incredibly environmentally unfriendly.
Also on the subject of vending machines, if you type "110" into the Cadbury's chocolate machines on Tube station platforms, you get a status message. Usually, it's the cheery "OK! No problems", which reminds me of Eddie the on board computer in Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Following on from the current flurry of vending machine emails I thought people might be interested to hear the latest in vending machine developments over here in Japan.
As many people know Japan is renowned for people working long hours with unwavering dedication to their company and its leaders. This company culture leads people to work 12 to 15 hour days five or more days a week. The end result of this is that a good 30% of people on the train are asleep at any one time. This is a country in clinical need of caffeine, but with little time to drink it.
The Japanese solution to this? Canned tea and coffee of course! Yes! Walk up to any vending machine in Japan (there are 5 million of them at the last count, one for every 24 people or so!) and you will be presented with a selection of canned hot and cold drinks. Drop in 100 yen, about 60p sterling, and out drops a steaming hot can of "Royal Milk Tea" or "Mountain Roast Coffee" in a can.
'Sacrilege!' some may cry! But when you are standing on the platform at Kita Ickibukruo station waiting for the next train to Shibuya, the freezing winds of Western Russia streaming through your overcoat, the hot can vending machine yards away stops being a object of disgust and transforms into an oasis of comfort and warmth. The products in these machines are usually very sweet and slightly clinical, lacking the character and depth of a good, strong, cup of tea, but when there is little else on offer they do fulfil the need for tea.
So do you think this could ever catch on in the west? If you could be sure of a satisfying drink of tea from a can would you buy it? Or is tea too complex a drink to be mass produced in a factory in the back end of nowhere?
|Nicey replies: It all sounds delightfully cyber-punkesque. Hoorah for the Japanese and their hatstand ideas.
Gratuitous link to Oolong the sadly departed head performance rabbit.