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The Evolution Of The Billi Tap

Developed in Australia in the early 1990s, Billi was the world’s first under-counter drinking water system to operate by heat-exchanger technology. Today, Billi is still the leading manufacturer and supplier of filtered drinking water dispensing systems. Requiring no grille or ventilation space, Billi is an energy-efficient, compact source of boiling, chilled, ambient and sparkling water.

But who is Billi? Where did this sleek, good-looking refreshment provider come from? What evolutionary influences helped to mould it?

Homo sapiens’ taste for dried Camellia sinensis leaves, infused in hot water, has been the driving force behind the development of water heaters: we all love a cup of tea. Billi’s recent ancestor, the hot-water urn, is a descendant of the electric kettle, which has been around for more than a century. In turn, the electric kettle evolved from the traditional heavy metal kettle that has, for centuries, sat on stoves and open fires.

But the prototype of the water-heating vessel, and Billi’s name’s sake, is the Australian billycan – a metal can with a wire handle. Some say that ‘billycan’ derives from billa, the Aboriginal word for ‘water’. But it’s more generally accepted that the word derives from the large cans that were used for transporting bouilli, or bully beef, on Australian-bound ships; these containers were modified, when the beef was finished, for boiling water over a fire.

In Australia, particularly, the billycan still lives on. There’s quite an art – with a strong flavour of competition – to the making of tea in a billycan. The process involves putting one fistful of tealeaves per person, plus one for the pot, into a billycan full of boiling water, which is suspended over a fire. The scalding hot can is then swung vigorously around one’s body, in order that the tealeaves will sink to the bottom.

Tea-making with Billi, however, is very different. Taps with adjustable temperature controls and regulated flow for safe dispensing mean that spills and splashes, queues for the kettle and dangerous cables are problems of the past. Offices all over the world are opting for these clean, eco-friendly and time-efficient filtered water systems.