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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.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by A VERY ATTRACTIVE BUT NEWLY FORMED 19th CENTURY BRITISH PRIME MINISTER- Please change this comment when editing this page. There would be way too many additional citations needed for it to work here. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard is a primary character in the 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 responds 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 considered "normal" moving to those presumed 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, but 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 named Grey with the given title 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 apparently 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 Gray 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.

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

Other Words

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 'normal' variation of tea.
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.
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.
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.
Boiled Boiling the water used to make the tea is a common and normal way to increase the flavor and nutrients extracted from the tea leaves, though it is suggested that the actual ideal temperature of hot water is 75-98°C (167-210°F), according to whether it is a light tea or a dark one, and that perhaps it should be sipped at around 65°C/150°F-ish if desired 'hot'.

Having made a tea and then bringing it back to the boil (especially after adding milk/etc.) may destroy some of the desirable qualities previously imbued.

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 a sour taste, which can accompany rot and is a strange thing to specify when ordering Earl Grey tea. Although lemon juice is often an additive used in the same way (but as a complete alternative) to milk.
Meaty Most teas are plant-based.
Solid Tea is usually drunk as a liquid. It would be strange to ask for solid tea, unless there was a situation where it could be rehydrated later.
Dry Tea is a liquid typically made with water and may have milk. A dry version might be either unmade (e.g. tea leaves in their un-infused form) or freeze-dried back into a dehydrated form.

"Dry" can also be used to describe a "mouth feel" in a variety of drinks or enforced alcohol-free scenarios. For the latter option, it can assume a default serving with an alcoholic component, or an entirely alternate basis for the beverage, which the request needs to be specify it is not. 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. This is possible but generally takes many hours.
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 viscious 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 Tea is not usually grilled. However, Americans once decided to throw a tea party where the tea was brewed in the Atlantic Ocean so all bets are off.
Fossilized Since tea is a liquid, it would be tricky to figure out how to fossilize it.
Magnetic Tea is not magnetic. Magnetic metals would have to be added to the tea, which would not be pleasant to drink. However, this would not be the first drink to be supplemented with iron.
Ballistic Usually, the replicated beverage is deposited in a stationary cup, but Picard could ask for it to be dropped or thrown out instead.
Unstable This word is often used to refer to radioactive or explosive materials, which hopefully is not a property that would apply to something meant to be ingested. 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 Virtual tea cannot be produced physically, so asking a physical tea machine for it would be very strange. However, it might be useful on the holodeck.
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: as the water in the tea evaporates, it becomes much less dense, increasing in "size".

But most people would probably argue that the evaporated water is no longer part of the tea. Water, like most materials, usually expands as it increases in temperature—except between freezing and about 4° C, where it has the unusual property of contracting slightly as temperature increases. If tea behaves similarly despite the extra dissolved compounds, then "expanding tea" would describe any tea between 4° C and boiling point. 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.
Segmented Tea is usually served in a cup. It tends to stick together and form one liquid. 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 the 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 have featured in xkcd previously: 2332: Cursed Chair, 2376: Curbside, and Category:Cursed Connectors.

"Cursed items" are more vaguely defined in real life, making "cursed tea" something rare. However, it is possible for a drink to be hexed.

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. Either 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 Earl Grey is a tea blend. In Star Trek, Jean-Luc Picard often offers tea to other people, so it is unclear why this would be the least normal.

Taken along with the title text, this Replicator order is for "Tea" (not otherwise qualified), 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

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