; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Yorkshire Tea ;

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yorkshire Tea

Nearly a kilo??
Every so often I see a request on a tea forum from someone looking for Yorkshire tea. This sort of tea is rather difficult to find in the US. In fact I personally don’t know of anywhere to find it. But now I’m the proud owner of an obscenely large amount of it, courtesy of my friend Rob in England. Rob is a rather well-known Role Playing video gamer, and in the world of Final Fantasy gaming, one of the best known in the English speaking world. As FF12Grandmaster, he is credited for cracking the random number generator in Final Fantasy XII, and I got to watch him figure it out. I have to tell you about all that, because in the eight years or so we’ve been friends and gamer pals, I’ve managed to see some bits of gaming history doing nothing but watch him play and enjoy my tea and diet soda. I suppose drinking Yorkshire Tea and writing about my friend Rob is particularly appropriate on Boxing Day, though he wouldn’t necessarily agree (“Holidays are pagan, I don’t celebrate them”).

Originally I met Rob (“it’s Rob, not Bob and don’t call me Robert”) after stumbling on one of his FFXII experiments posted in an online gaming forum, which he called “The Danjuro Experiment,”where he was credited for demonstrating the most efficient method for obtaining a dagger in the game called the Danjuro. This was so impressive I had to send him a message. I had never really thought before about working on something like methods for farming rare items. 

Photo of the Danjuro dagger

Final Fantasy games are packed full of references to history and mythology, and in this case the Danjuro is an honorific family name given to actors in the history of Kabuki theatre. Interestingly, the great Kabuki actor Danjuro IX is known for an experiment incorporating western styles of acting and playwriting into Kabuki in Japan, with the intent on “modernizing” the Kabuki style, in plays known as “short-cropped,” which refers to short western men’s hairstyles. In particular at that time during the 1890s, an Englishman named Spencer brought hot air ballooning into Japan, astounding Tokyo by flying thousands of feet above the city to large crowds. This technology surprised the Japanese public, and the excitement spread into the theatre as well.

Fast forward into the future of Final Fantasy XII gaming, Japanese players were well known in video circles to spend hours and hours hunting seemingly impossible to get rare items from treasure chests. Things with chances like 1:1000 or even 1:10,000. Japanese games are full of these types of challenges which players enjoy cracking or at least beating the odds. Rob took a bit of information found on Japanese forums about un-equipping a weapon and having the character hit itself, leading to a combination of extra hits. With this information, he was able to work out changes in the random number generator to obtain the rarest items from treasure chests in various parts of the game. I happened to be watching Rob work this out while he streamed live on Ustream early in 2009, sitting back enjoying my Cheetos while he talked himself through what he saw in the game. So I can say I witnessed it first-hand, him doing this a full month before any Japanese player did. He made a video of the Five Hit Combo pattern using the Japanese International Version of  FFXII, and even published a written guide a few months later, demonstrating how he could obtain the rare Zodiac Spear every time.

Image credit.

Rob's video astounded the gaming community in Japan every bit as much as Spencer’s hot air balloon. First off, Japanese gamers had the opinion back then that English players were not even capable of playing Japanese games. I ran into this many times while playing Shirokishi Monogatari: Hikari to Yami no Kakusei 白騎士物語 -光と闇の覚醒 (White Knight Chronicles II), many players online said to me they couldn’t believe it that English and American people were capable of playing games in Japanese. Of course, English speaking gamers play games in Japanese all the time, always have, but folks in Japan don’t necessarily know about it. People came into our gaming room just to stare at us playing Shirokishi. Then there’s the opinion that Japanese gamers are better players than their western counterparts, an opinion that’s mostly true in my view. Just compare videos of gamers playing the same games and witness the difference in just speed of execution of commands alone. The difference in speed is something I find absolutely nerve-wracking playing on Japan servers, along with getting my kanji correct, and the most rewarding when I manage to succeed in blending in with a crowd of players.

But all that came later. When Rob made that video showing he cracked the Square Enix RNG in FFXII, the fact that an Englishman had done it was equally as amazing as the fact that anyone accomplished it at all. The best part, Rob is someone my age, not some whippersnapper kid. In fact he is a couple years older than I am. Let the world know the best of the best in RPG video gaming are not the kids anywhere in the world, but a proud old English fart in the west midlands fighting heart disease on a juice diet. So too does Spencer live on, lurking in the wings of Kabuki theatre in the play “Riding the Famous Hot Air Balloon.” Incidentally, the short English speech delivered in the play, the first ever in Japan, was penned by Imaizumi Hidetaro 今泉秀太郎, a cartoonist who, on April 27, 1891, was the first ever to use the word “manga” to refer to what we call “caricature.” Now maybe I am making a bit much of these little snippets of history, and droning on overlong. But you can say whatever you want, because behind great art forms of Kabuki and manga and modern video games lurks a pesky Englishman. Wish it away if you will, but from now on you’ll think of it when you crack open your manga collection or when the HD version of FFXII gets released, if it ever does.

Kabuki's Spencer, the tokyo files
After Rob’s RNG cracking, players further expanded upon his work and found that by casting a heal spell, the values of the Cure varied in pattern. With a lot of trial and error, players worked out what today is known as “the Cure Method.” This works by casting a Cure and looking up the numbers on a spreadsheet which then gives the player an idea of where the random number pattern happens to be at that moment, and then count the number of movements until the pattern will land on the spot needed for a rare item. Players didn’t seem to understand the self-hit method as well as they understood the easy business looking up a number on a spreadsheet. Personally I found the spreadsheet a lot harder to follow than looking for a five-hit combo, but whatever. Most people don’t even bother with this type of experimentation today, people just bust open the code on a disc, use Codebreaker and call it a day. I think a person needs a particular kind of head for numbers and patterns and that is what Rob’s got. At any rate, his guide covers both.

Unfortunately, he deleted most of his videos in a huff at YouTube, but he still has a few on Veoh. I personally miss the video of fist fighting Zodiark, which had some of the finest English cussing I’ve ever heard. The dates on the guides I linked to above speak for themselves. However, you might enjoy a different video that still exists showing and narrating the method for obtaining the invisible Seitengrate bow (odds 1:10,000), not his personal discovery but his video makes it easy for English players to follow. In case the video code doesn't work right, here is the link.

Watch FFXII IZJS Seitengrate in Tech & Gaming  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

If you're still having a problem with the link, try a Google search for "Seitengrate Veoh."

Over the years, FF12Grandmaster has become a good friend, through years of video streaming, moderating a gaming forum called fftogether.com, yakking on Skype and playing several games together either in online co-op fashion or just chatting away while each of us plays at whatever we’re playing at the moment. What I’m most grateful for is the motivating effect he has on me to become a better player and stretch my abilities. Many of us seek out friends who always affirm and soothe, but Rob is one of the few people who motivates me through challenge. I’ve become a better player through our divergence in opinions, and even the bits of misogyny he tosses around, not entirely directed at me, but rather like the boys of my neighborhood did when I was a kid. ”Women are meant to stay home, raise kids, cook and clean.” Eye-rollers like that I take as a personal challenge. The best persons you can ever know are not the ones who are there to approve or baby you along the way, but the ones who dish it out just enough to spur one to become better. I socked many a boy back in my childhood for remarks like those I’ve heard from him. And I’ve grown more confident by far playing alongside tough customers who will tell me my gear is shit than I would by playing with someone who might hand me an easy win.

In 2011, my sister gave me a frequent flyer ticket to head over to England and stay a bit in Milton Keynes to visit with Rob and another then-mutual friend of ours. Instead of doing a whole lot of sightseeing, I guess we fired up the Playstation 3 and ordered English pizza, which I can assure you is not recognizable by any American. Not much has changed over the years. Last fall we revisited Square Enix’s “The Last Remnant,” this time on PC and on Hard Mode. I got through some stressful days at work by coming home and jumping on Skype and firing up the game while yakking for 5 hours with my overseas gamer pal. During all this we covered a lot of topics, like what’s in the news, differences in our cultures (mine being the inferior), religions (mine leading to hell), world events (“can’t be arsed,”), and just stuff. Somewhere in the midst of the Hard Mode on “Last Remnant,” we did a tea swap. I sent puerh and some fine black teas, and he sent me enough Yorkshire tea to brew one for my entire town if I wish, a quantity which Rob assures me “is enough for a typical English family for about a month.”

Comparison with American tea box.

He sent a set of instructions with the tea.

Most of us gong-fu brewers worry over the idea of letting a tea sit in the water for 4-6 minutes, but okay I’ll “be a sport” and “give it a go.” For no better reason than Rob likes to say I’m a “Yank,” when there is no way in hell a Polack Hungarian Jew American will ever qualify as a Yank. Apparently we’re all Yanks. I don’t get it, but this idea rankles enough for me to give the tea a long steep as he suggests, and play Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans,” a tune I hear plenty in my head when he gets going on what’s wrong with America, and this tune is just half long enough to steep a Yorkshire tea. I can actually play this song through twice while (“it’s WHILST, you people have butchered our language”) the tea bag steeps, recounting the resounding 1814 victory of the Americans over the British (“I’m English, not British, don’t ever call me British!”). Here’s to a proud history of butchering the language:

I feel better now. Dunno about this tea, but I’m definitely thirsty (“I’ve got a mouth like a Turkish wrestler’s jock strap”). Now I have to add milk. I normally don’t sugar any teas at all. I’d rather have a doughnut to go. Never mind, I’ll try it without sugar first. His ears must have been ringing because my Skype buzzed before I got started. So, Rob talked me through the anxiety of letting a tea sit for five minutes.

After about 5 minutes.

And how much milk to put in.

Second attempt at the photo, the first didn't pass approval.
This tea by our standards of puerh consumption is extremely mild, even after a five minute brew. The leaves are of course rather powdery in the bag, as they are with standard tea bags. I get a little bit of tannin on the finish. I will likely need two bags to approach anything like a strong tea. Yorkshire Tea is inoffensive enough, though one wonders about the growing conditions after all the hoopla on the BBC last year about tea picker working conditions in India.

This tea is enough in quantity for me to give up my a.m. coffee and drink this box up instead. Most of my teas are too strong to take with my a.m. meds, so that’s why I drink coffee and milk instead as my first beverage, at least normally I do. But I can take my pills with this Yorkshire tea and milk. As for gaming, I finished up what I wanted to do on “The Last Remnant” about six weeks ago, and have been playing Mass Effect 1 on the PC. He’s still at it on Last Remnant, dunno if we’ll be playing the same game again anytime soon, could be years from now if ever. But whatever he plays I’m interested in watching, so as long as he streams it I’ll eat chips and watch. (“It’s crisps, not chips. Chips are for fish.”) Maybe I’ll get back to England and attend a home team soccer game by the Milton Keynes Dons. “The entire world calls football, football except you people.”

See? Oh, I have good reason to head over to Merry Olde England talking like a Polack. That’s an occasion that can’t be missed.


  1. That Yorkshire Tea looks like an interesting tea. Will try it this weekend. Happy New year!

  2. I always take soda, sometimes liquor while playing PC game. I will try this one I can imagine how relaxing it is.

  3. I love Yorkshire tea, its deep and satisfying taste.

  4. This was the most enjoyable blog post I have read in a while. Thank you!

  5. I can't keep playing while having a tea, it makes me fall sleep in just few minutes.

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