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The Story Of Gunfire Tea  

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Gunfire tea is a British caffeinated and alcoholic cocktail made by mixing black tea and a splash of rum. This unique beverage was a favorite in the British army, as an early morning tea to help battle the cold and the rain, but also as a form of liquid courage for the soldiers going to battle.  

It is not known how, when, or by whom specifically gunfire was invented. However, the drink seems to show up for the first time at the tail end of 19th century. It was particularly popular during World War I, where British officers would offer their troops a cup of gunfire, before first light, to face the grim day ahead. The practice of drinking gunfire also helped with troop morale and became a mainstay in military ceremonies and commemorations. One of those traditions is serving gunfire on Christmas day, with the soldiers still lying in their cots. Another was that certain regiments in the army served a version of gunfire, one where the rum was replaced by whiskey, on St. Patrick’s day.

In Australia and New-Zealand a similar drink is served alongside food (often something along the lines of a typical English breakfast), which is called the ‘gunfire breakfast.’ On ANZAC Day, the day that commemorates all Australians and New-Zealanders who “served and died” in military operations. In this case, the tea is replaced by black coffee. Another variety is found in German-speaking Central Europe called “Jägertee” that was made with “Inländer-Rum” and spiced black tea, although this beverage has far less to do with the military. There are also ready-made mixtures available in Austria, and it has become an après-ski favorite for tourists during their ski holidays in the Alps.  

In modern times, with more knowledge and awareness about health, gunfire has less of a role in the military, at least officially. It does make sense, for instance, during the Korean war some American troops were offered gunfire by the British, which led to some soldiers becoming intoxicated who subsequently crashed their jeep into a camp gate. However, when the situation calls for a ritual or commemoration, serving up gunfire would certainly not be out of place.  

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