2570: Captain Picard Tea Order

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Captain Picard Tea Order
We can ask the Earl for his order once he's fully extruded from the dispenser.
Title text: We can ask the Earl for his order once he's fully extruded from the dispenser.


Captain Jean-Luc Picard is a primary character in the science fiction TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is focused on the crew of a starship. The ship is equipped with replicators, which can create virtually any object or material requested, including food and drink, and which respond to verbal commands.

In the show, Picard's beverage of choice is Earl Grey tea. His habitual method for ordering is to first specify what he wants (tea, in this case), then specify a particular type (Earl Grey), and then give specific instructions for how it is to be served (hot, as opposed to iced tea). Because this is his favored drink, he repeatedly places the exact order "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." The first picture in the strip implies that the display shows each part of the order, and provides a list of options for the next step.

Randall parodies this repeated order by suggesting other words that could follow "Tea. Earl Grey.", starting from ones he considers more "normal" moving to those he presumes increasingly "less normal" down a long and winding arrow.

The results of two examples from the normal/less-normal scale are also illustrated: Sticky tea and loud tea. Sticky is kind of obvious, though perhaps not immediately understandable, the loud version is a tea that screams "Teeee..." The vibrating and screeching teacup may be a reference to the various Star Trek episodes about tribbles, which behave in a similar way in the presence of Klingons.

The very last qualifying addition, the least normal is not a single word but "Tea for him, too." This reinterprets the meaning of the standard introductory words, suggesting that "tea", and "Earl Grey" are separate orders, which implies that he wants the replicator to produce tea, then replicate a human being named Earl Grey (either one of the Earls Grey or a person surnamed Grey with the given name of Earl), then a second tea to serve to this newly created person. Earl Grey tea is named after the Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, a 19th century British Prime Minister, and Captain Picard possibly wishes to have said Earl be generated to provide him with company.

In contrast to the often trivial use of a replicator as merely a potentially infinitely versatile vending machine, the comic sets up a number of quite esoteric options, culminating in Earl Grey himself potentially drinking (generic) tea, after both the tea and he have been replicated into existence by Picard.

In the title text, someone tells Picard that they should wait until the Earl has been fully extruded from the dispenser, and then ascertain what he would actually wish to drink. The presumption is that it could take some time to get a full living person out of the replicator. This sort of operation would be better suited for the holodeck, which has been used to create simulacra of other historical figures, including Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton, with the limitations that they are mere simulations without their own autonomy and cannot exist beyond the limits of the fixed holotransmitters; though at least two others seem to have gained full sentience, and granted (or be convinced they were granted) physical freedom.

In the various versions of Star Trek, it's established that replicators aren't capable of producing living things, so canonically this version of the order could not be filled.

Other Words[edit]

Word Explanation
Hot A fairly normal word to be used when ordering tea. Although that it even needs specifying is itself a clue that other variations (such as "Iced", below) are available. This is the chosen word of the five visible words Picard is potentially presented with in the first drawing. The act of requesting this is thus illustrated, though not of the appearance of the tea itself.
Iced Iced tea is a typical variation of tea. In the United States, iced tea is a popular alternative to soft drinks and makes up about 85% of all tea consumed, although (perhaps owing to being from Boston, whose climate is not too sweltering to motivate cold drinks) Randall classifies it as less normal than hot Earl Grey.
Decaf Traditional teas (from Camellia sinensis) tend to have caffeine in them. Asking for decaffeinated tea is not particularly uncommon if the drinker requires it. In the series Picard, set several decades after The Next Generation, Picard does actually order "Tea, Earl Grey, decaf" in one scene. Earl Grey tea typically has about 30 milligrams of caffeine, depending on how long it is steeped.
Good A normal, subjective term. Most people drinking tea would want it to be good, but to specify it like this would perhaps be strange. This is one of the words in the first drawing, as a listed alternative to Hot. It is possible that he is saying it after the machine has dispensed its tea.
Lukewarm While this is a temperature that tea can be at, most people (including Jean-Luc) do not want their teas to be lukewarm.
Tasty Similar to good, most people would want their tea to be tasty, or at least flavorsome. This word being below 'lukewarm' may imply that Randall dislikes Earl Grey. Or perhaps he actually considers it implicit, and thus is fairly redundant to specify - unlike even 'hot'.
Boiled Boiling the water used to make the tea is a common way to increase the flavor and nutrients extracted from the tea leaves. It is suggested that the ideal temperature for hot water is 75-98°C (167-210°F), according to whether it is a light tea or a dark one, and that it should be sipped at around 65°C/150°F-ish if desired 'hot' to prevent scalding.

This command/specification may be meant as a contrast to a cold brew and using 'boiled' rather than 'hot' clarifying the intention for a tea brewed in hot water rather than a tea brewed in cold water and then heated up, which some detractors claim negatively affects the taste, although if that is the case then that implies Picard has been drinking heated up cold tea for most of the series.

Watery Tea is a drink that often involves water, but this perhaps suggests over dilution or under infusion in some way.
Sour Many people do not enjoy sour tea or coffee, which is usually a sign of overextraction and thus a strange thing to specify when ordering Earl Grey tea. Lemon tea can perhaps be considered a sour tea, although most, if not all, people would say 'lemon' rather than 'sour'.
Meaty Most teas are plant-based. While meat-based teas such as beef tea do exist they are more generally regarded as either a soup or a medicine, and unlikely to be combined with actual tea. Meaty is also a descriptive term that could be used for robustly flavoured teas, such as an Assam. However, Earl Grey is a light, floral tea, for which this descriptor is unlikely to be appropriate.
Solid Tea is usually drunk as a liquid. It would be strange to ask for solid tea, although given the setting of the series perhaps Picard wishes to bring along the solid tea so he can make a cup while off the Enterprise. Alternatively, Picard could be asking for frozen tea, or ice, which would begin solid but melt in his mouth.
Dry "Dry" most often describes alcoholic beverages with no sweetening ingredients, and all the sugar has been consumed by the fermentation. It can refer to a particular "mouth feel," also caused by lack of sweetness. While unsweetened tea is nothing unusual, describing it as "dry tea" is. Alternatively Picard might be asking for literal dry tea, either unmade (e.g. tea leaves in their un-infused form) or freeze-dried back into a dehydrated form.

This is one of the five words Picard was seen presented with in the first drawing.

Raw This describes tea that has not been "cooked", so it would just be tea made with room-temperature water. Sun tea is a form of iced tea that can be brewed by placing tea in a large glass container with water and leaving the container in the sun for hours, resulting in a smoother flavor. A replicator could likely produce sun tea at the same speed as hot tea, making it a viable (if somewhat exotic) choice of preparation.
Deep-fried Tea is not usually deep-fried. But you'll probably find someone who has tried it, one way or another.
Sticky Perhaps significantly dehydrated, or thickened with enough of a hydrophilic substance, this would produce something very unlike most teas that would usually be requested. For example, the addition of significant amounts of sugar may lead to a more viscous brew.

This scenario is illustrated to show a clearly messy product that awkwardly sticks to and drips from the replicator as well as Picard.

Grilled Meats and vegetables can be prepared via grilling, as can sandwiches and other foods. However, the grilling process requires that the comestible in question be solid so as not to fall through the grill; beverages are notorious for lacking solidity, and thus are not typically grilled.
Fossilized Fossilizing leaves replaces their biological molecules with minerals. Brewing fossilized tea leaves would dissolve some of those and produce a beverage that resembles mineral water more than tea.
Magnetic Tea is not magnetic. Some teas contain metals that can be magnetic, such as Irn-Bru (which has iron), although non-magnetic iron is usually used. Magnetic metals in tea may have adverse consequences. In addition, consuming more than one magnetic source may end up squeezing tissues in the intestines or bowels, with potentially lethal consequences.
Ballistic Usually the replicated beverage is deposited within a stationary cup, but Picard could ask for it to be dropped or thrown out instead. Unless the good captain has a sufficiently quick reaction time and the dexterity to catch the projectile cup, the tea will likely end up spilled onto the floor or splattered against a wall. It could, however, be a novel method to counter intruders.
Unstable This word is often used to refer to radioactive or explosive materials, which hopefully is not a property of something meant to be ingested. Particularly concerning given that the world of Star Trek features a plethora of such substances, many of which are incredibly potent - for example, the tea could be made from antimatter, which would cause an explosion that could destroy the entire ship. Alternatively, this could imply that the receptacle into which the tea is delivered should be unstable - being unbalanced, or lacking a flat bottom. This is likely to lead to the tea being spilled.
Blessed Tea is a beverage, and it may be strange to ask a machine to create 'blessed' tea. However, if the machine were to use holy water, already blessed by a human, it is possible for it to remain "blessed" after the water is used to make tea. It is also possible that this is a reference to tea which could be used in baptism.

In role-playing games, items can be Blessed, i.e. having greater positive or lesser negative effects. This includes potions, a class of drinks that do not usually include any teas but could contain the "potion of water", which may also, therefore, be the basis of this blessed brew.

Blurry Being blurry is not a normal state for tea to have. Cloudy, on the other hand, is quite normal for certain brews.
Loud While molecules in tea (especially hot tea, and vitally so in an Infinite Improbability Drive) do move vigorously, this does not usually result in distinct audible effects.

However, as illustrated, it seems the requested cup of tea is produced capable of emitting a high-pitched, high-volume whining sound that entirely dominates the vicinity. It actually appears to somewhat vocalize what it is, Teeeee...

Virtual In our (physical) world virtual tea cannot be exist, so asking a physical tea machine for it would be very strange (and paradoxical). However, Star Trek features the Holodeck, which creates a virtual physically interactive environment made from "holo-matter", which is stated to be not the same as real matter (though not how).
Intravenous This means the tea would be injected directly into the customer's veins, likely a very painful experience if the tea comes out boiling. Instrument of choice would probably be a tea infuser.
Expanding In a sense, most hot tea is expanding: water (and thus tea), like most materials, expands as it increases in temperature. Water has the unusual property of contracting slightly from 0° C to 4° C, but provided the tea is above that it would classify. Possibly beyond, and explosively so, if superheated and then nucleating points are introduced.

On the other hand, this tea may simply be tea spilled on the floor, which could then spread out as it evaporated.

Ironic How tea could be ironic will be a mystery if your culture has no understanding of irony. The irony of the most celebrated Frenchman in science fiction history delighting in a very British beverage is a nice touch of cosmopolitanism. There is also a possibility that the tea will speak or otherwise communicate in ironic terms. While this is very strange and unlikely, it can be considered, given the other scenarios on this list.
Segmented Tea is usually served in a cup. There is the simple explanation that the cup is divided into segments, though this is the cup, and not technically the tea itself. Tea tends to stick together and form one liquid making it hard to segment. Separating the tea into segments would not be possible without some form of an emulsifying gel.
Verbose This describes using lots of words and language, and would not likely be used for tea, because it cannot speak. Command-line computer programs often run in a 'silent' mode without displaying every step of what happens on the screen. Such programs may have a -verbose parameter that disables the silent mode. As the replicator is run by a computer, the verbose parameter could be applied to the process of tea-making, with the replicator providing an info-dump on the molecular arrangement of the tea, together with the cup of liquid.
Cursed As with "Blessed", above, items can be Cursed in role-playing games, i.e. having greater negative or lesser positive effects; while there are strategic uses for Cursed items, generally the player would prefer uncursed ones (neutral or blessed). Amongst curseable items are potions, a class of consumables that do not usually include any teas but does contain the "potion of water", which may therefore be the cause of this cursed cuppa.

"Cursed items" are more vaguely defined in real life, with various sources claiming that it applies to objects that cause people "irritation" or "confusion".

Cursed items have featured in xkcd previously: 2332: Cursed Chair, 2376: Curbside, and Category:Cursed Connectors.

Unexpected By definition, Picard is asking for tea, expecting it promptly. Perhaps the request for it to be "unexpected" would cause it to be delivered at an unknown time in the future, or to have some alteration.
Bipedal Bipedal organisms have two feet. As tea does not walk, this would be a very strange term to use when describing tea.
Afraid Tea does not have feelings. Although water may remember things (at least pseudo-scientifically) or consider some things to be unpleasant.
Infinite The scope of this request is unclear. It could mean endless production (a steady stream of tea, without obvious limits so long as servicing the request remains practical), an instantaneous production of an infinite volume of tea (possibly more immediately shown to be flawed in its method of execution), or tea which will exceed the heat death of the universe. All could result in an infinitely dense tea (eventually?), but this may no longer be identifiable as tea so might be one of the less practical options, even amongst those on this list. Indeed, Randall ranks it as the least 'normal', except for just one further named order.
Tea for him, too The comic ends its punchline by reinterpreting the syntax. Instead of adding a second adjective, Picard adds a second order of tea for an unseen guest. In Star Trek, Jean-Luc Picard often offers tea to other people, so it is unclear why this would be the least normal, other than to place it at the bottom of the chart.

The change in syntax can be further combined with the title text: now this Replicator order is for "Tea" (with no specifics as to kind, temperature, state or quality), plus a replicated version of the Earl Grey (one or other of those of that name, possibly the 2nd Earl for whom the tea blend was supposedly named), and a second such beverage for him to later drink. See more in the explanation above regarding the title text.

Words Picard could have seen in the first drawing, but which were not included as labels on the line
Cold Like Iced tea, asking for cold tea is a relatively normal request.
Pink Earl grey is usually an orange-brown color, not pink. There are, however, a wide variety of teas which come from pink leaves or whose color is "pinkish".


[At the top of the panel, there is a large caption covering two lines with a sub-caption below in a normal-sized font:]
Other words Captain Picard tried at the end of his tea order before settling on "hot"
From most normal to least
[Bellow this we see Picard, drawn bald except for a bit of hair near his ears and behind his head. He stands next to a machine, which is a standing rectangle of the same dimensions as Picard. In the front, there is an opening around the middle, a dispenser from where the ordered items can be retrieved. There is a label at the top of the machine. Picard is giving a command to the machine. His first three words are clearly spoken out as they stand, but then at the end of the sentence, instead of just adding one more word, there is a list of five words in a column between two gray lines. Five words are visible, but the top and bottom words are fading out, presumably other words are above and below, but no longer visible. All except the middle are gray. The middle word is placed as the direct follow up to the first three words in the sentence Picard speaks out, and this word is black like the previous three words. So this middle word is clearly the one he actually speaks out. The others were options, presumably on his mind.]
Label: Replicator
  Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
[To the left of the machine, a long arrow begins snaking its way towards the bottom, where it ends in an arrow pointing down towards the bottom of the panel. At the top, there is a broad and thick bar from which it starts. Beneath this there are several ticks, the first three are close together and on a part of the arrow that goes almost straight down. But then the arrow curves in under the drawing of Picard, and goes over another drawing of him, placed in a captioned frame. The arrow goes around this and up on the other side, where it goes around another drawing of Picard in a similarly captioned frame. After having gone around this frame it goes a bit up before turning almost straight down before the final arrowhead that points down. In total there are 36 labeled ticks on the arrow, see labels below. The ticks have very varying distances between them. There are especially long between them around the first panels with Picard, but closer together at the start and towards the very end. Above the top bar from where the arrow starts there is also a label and just below this and to the left of the long arrow is a smaller arrow pointing down in the direction of the long arrow. This small arrow has a label at its starting point.]
Bar label: Normal
Small arrow label: Less normal
[The second drawing of Picard, shows him standing next to the labeled machine. Picard is this time holding a cup, with sticky lines connecting his hands and the machine to the cup. He clearly looks down at the cup rather than on the machine, as the hair behind his ear is turned differently than the first drawing, where he looks straight towards the machine. Above is a label inside a frame overlaid on the top line of the panel, with what Picard ordered:]
"Tea. Earl Grey. Sticky."
Label: Replicator
[The third drawing of Picard, only displays him and not the machine. He is holding a vibrating cup in both hands and has now turned the other way, away from where the machine was in the previous drawings (again clearly seen by his hair). Very large letters are displayed in three lines behind him to the exclusion of all else. Four of the 15 letters are partly hidden behind the panel's frame, and seven of them are partly covered by Picard. Above is a label inside a frame overlaid on the top line of the panel, with what Picard ordered:]
"Tea. Earl Grey. Loud."
Teacup: Teeeeeeeeeeeeee
[Words on the arrow from start to finish:]
Tea for him, too


This was the fifth comic to come out after the Countdown in header text started.

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...Builders. I mean, Picard is French and Trek(/Randall) is 'Merican but I suspect it would still be a valid option to give the Ready-Room replicator... 23:31, 19 January 2022 (UTC)

In Star Trek: Picard, Picard is seen requesting "tea, earl gray, decaf". 03:33, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

I would call for a [citation needed] here. In case you can supply it, put it in the table under defac. --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
I put it in with [1] as ref. 14:29, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
But how warm is it? Kev (talk) 20:09, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Presumably infinite tea could be the beverage to accompany Endless Wings. Nitpicking (talk) 03:45, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

This joke should only come on a Tuesday! And I'm annoyed you beat me to it ;-) But at leat I found another infinity joke first 1433: Lightsaber. --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
I assumed infinite tea was just a bad pun - as in 'To infinite tea and beyond!' 09:12, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
To infinity and beyond from Toy Story you mean? Good point.--Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

I showed it to a friend an their response was: "[In early 20th century England] they added condensed beef stock to their tea for breakfast", so meaty tea is very much a possibility. Then they linked some brand promotional materials for "Vimbos: The Prince of Fluid Beef" and "Vimbos: an ox in a teacup". Because I was just about to sign off for the evening, I'm not going to do the due diligence to research, cite, and edit the main article to reflect this discovery--but I thought it should at least be written here to see if others found it interesting enough to add. Dextrous Fred (talk) 04:21, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Bovril is a standard beef tea 07:40, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Meaty is also a term that could be used to describe robustly flavoured teas, such as an Assam. Not likely to be used for Earl Grey, though. 09:18, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Should be added to the explanation... --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

The concept of iced tea is not normal, especially as Picard is English. Almost but not quite, totally unlike tea. Arachrah (talk) 08:46, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Intravenous tea, on the other hand, is an entirely reasonable request. 09:13, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
But we agree that Icetea is? Could be seen as that. --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Picard is actually natively, and by name, French. Born not far from the Swiss border, his family running a vinyard there. Though he indeed seems to be quite the Anglophile (steadfastly English by accent!) and we don't entirely know how the (re)merging of Europe may have affected cultural and social inheritances on the other side of the Eugenics Wars (and other civilisation-upturning shifts in terran future-history) from where we are now. 12:45, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Are you thinking of Patrick Stewart being English? Kev (talk) 20:09, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Me? (, just above.) Not really. Stewart is from Kirklees (not far from Huddersfield, though an accent or two away), yet unless he consciously drifts back he tends to stick to his professional English voice. But Picard is from eastern France and proud of it, though his accent (when speaking English) is also very... English.
When an episode has him on the Holodeck, at least when he's having fun without some Holodeck-located threat currently happening, he can drift into a Shakespearean bit-part dialect or Film Noir-style American to suit the program running at the time, but Picard's natural tone seems to be quite RP. Obviously proving that the future has developed the near-perfect scenario of traditional French wine being made by those with cut-glass English accents. :-p 20:36, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

I kind of think that the explanation should give more emphasis to the fact that the whole comic is basically just a convoluted set-up for the Earl Grey joke. 09:20, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Agree have just added a line to that affect. --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Disagree that this was the whole purpose. It's a punchline, but not sure it dictated where it was eventually going. That it goes into it twice (least-normal affix and then the titletext) reads more as stumbling to that conclusion rather than carefully aiming at this particular wham-line. But YMMV. 12:50, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

I disagree that separating the tea into segments would not be possible. You simply need a segmented mug or cup. That would, though, probably prove difficult to drink, unless he used a straw. 09:28, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

While I'm normally the first to jump in on the [citation needed] joke, that would have to be applied to almost every single line of the explanation, so I propose Not Doing That. I accept criticism and counter arguments --Evidently the unfunny person here (talk) 09:45, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Great, this has been used way too much. It is often not very funny. And in my opinion should really be used only when citation is needed[citation needed] :-p --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
I disagree on that last thing, for that we have [actual citation needed] (talk) 12:31, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Could the "infinite" also be a reference to the paperclip maker thought experiment - the replicator will consume the universe to get raw materials and energy to make more and more tea. 10:09, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

Definitely a problem with a machine that makes thing out of energy, is that is need lots of energy. --Kynde (talk) 11:22, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

I liked "verbose". Most software run from a command line has a "-verbose" or "-v" option which causes it to give more information about what it's doing, usually useful for the purpose of debugging. Rather than providing more information about the tea, I expect that "tea, earl grey, verbose" would result in the replicator giving a step-by-step explanation as it looks up the recipe for tea, selects appropriate raw materials (does it use particles from the air or something?), begins replicating, finishes replicating, and tests that the final product is within normal parameters. Of course, this might mean that the replicator runs more slowly while doing this; which could be useful if he's getting tea as an excuse to take a break from an argument of some kind. Perhaps the replicator even has a 'traditional' tea making mode, where it pauses and describes a more conventional method of tea-making as if there were an invisible chef with a kettle and a teapot somewhere just out of sight. Angel (talk) 11:07, 20 January 2022 (UTC)

What if the countdown is actually to season 2 of [[2]]

Star Trek: Picard (season 2) is set to run from March 3, which both Wikipedia (link before) and IMDb agrees upon så bad to miss by more than a month, and what would the plane in the image have to do with this anyway ;-) --Kynde (talk) 12:08, 21 January 2022 (UTC)

How about Jean Lucwarm tea? 00:41, 21 January 2022 (UTC) How about we don't. That is an AWFUL pun! ( which means I wish I had thought of it first 'cause I actually find it hilarious ;^) 11:30, 21 January 2022 (UTC)

I'd like to think that the Earl Grey mentioned at the bottom was CGP Grey as an Earl. Mikeb108 (talk) 18:46, 21 January 2022 (UTC)

I'd imagine there ought to be mention of milk/no milk. Not very funny, granted, but it's a fairly major consideration in the tea-making process, being a standard (or indeed mandatory) ingredient for many consumers. In the case of Earl Grey however it is generally regarded as optional (or perhaps incorrect, by those who have opinions about the propriety of such things), so it's a pretty key variable, and belongs close to the top of the list. Yorkshire Pudding (talk) 11:10, 22 January 2022 (UTC)

That link to season 2 trailer doesn't seem to work. Is that this one? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feQTh-6M7pc -- Hkmaly (talk) 05:59, 23 January 2022 (UTC)

This page has been vandalized, we need to fix that MysticalMHM (talk) 00:20, 4 May 2022 (UTC)

I don't think "raw" tea would be tea steeped in room-temperature water, I think it would be tea made from fresh (unprocessed/non-dried) leaves. Possibly even just the leaves themselves. L-Space Traveler (talk) 15:24, 5 November 2023 (UTC)