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Tea as a “debaucher of youth”

Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese queen-consort of Charles II, is typically given credit for the initial popularization of tea in England. Tea had been popular among the aristocracy in Catherine’s home country of Portugal for years, as it was considered an exotic luxury by the rich. Catherine’s affection for tea spread to her courtiers and eventually to the upper classes. Tea is a rarity in that it maintained its popularity even after spreading to the lower classes.

This proliferation of tea-drinking among all social strata in England also led to controversy over its effects on  health – both physical and spiritual. William Cobbett, an English farmer and journalist, expressed his views that tea was a “destroyer or health” and “debaucher of youth” in his 1821 book Cottage Economy. He asserts that tea “corrupts boys as soon as they are able to move from home, and does little less for the girls to whom the gossip of the tea table is no bad preparatory school for the brothel.” According to Cobbett, the man who drinks tea “makes his miserable progress towards that death which he finds ten or fifteen years sooner than he would have found it had he made his wife brew beer instead of making tea.”

It seems ludicrous today to claim that tea – beloved by nanas everywhere – was once decried as a beverage that led to a life of prostitution followed by a premature death.

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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Tea for health, Tea history

 

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Tea Propaganda during WWII

This wartime film, titled “Tea Making Tips,” illustrates the correct way to make a proper cup of English tea. Released by Britain’s Empire Tea Bureau in 1941, the film is nothing short of propaganda. These “golden rules” of tea-making include correct storage, using fresh water each time, boiling the water to perfection, and giving the tea leaves enough time to infuse into the water.

The film features women working at counters making huge vats of tea and serving it to young, handsome, gleeful British soldiers. Another scene depicts wheeled tea carts being rushed to the scene of a bombed-out city square as a soldier hangs a Union Flag among the rubble. This film declares tea the British national beverage, and that correctly preparing a good cup of tea is an act of national pride. The production of such a film by a government bureau proves the British government not only acknowledged tea’s status as a nationally-beloved beverage, but also took action to perpetuate its status as such.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Tea culture, Tea history, Video

 

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The Deal with Kombucha

Buzz about Kombucha tea has been echoing from all corners of the Internet for the past few weeks. Madonna and Lindsay Lohan have been spotted imbibing the fermented beverage, and “Kombucha” was a trending search term on Google last week.

Lindsay Lohan drinking Kombucha tea

Photo courtesy of comboutea.com

Despite its recent trendiness, Kombucha tea is nothing new. It originated in China over 2,000 years ago, when it was referred to as an “immortal health elixir.” Kombucha is a mass of yeast and bacteria (yum) which is added to tea and allowed to ferment for about 10 days. During the fermentation period, hundreds of compounds — including B vitamins, alcohol and lactic acid — are released.

Kombucha enthusiasts claim that this yeasty-tea bolsters the immune system, boosts energy, aids digestion, prevents cancer, clears skin, increases the shininess of hair, and more. However, there is no conclusive scientific evidence in favor of these claims. In fact, illness and even death have resulted from the consumption of home-brewed Kombucha due to unsanitary and imprecise fermentation conditions.

Personally, I don’t love the idea of a mass of bacteria and yeast in my tea. But I enjoy a nice beer and yogurt of all descriptions, so I think that I shouldn’t let the description scare me away. Since the dangers of drinking Kombucha are limited to home-brewed versions, and the tea (like anything worth buying) is available at shops all over Brooklyn, I think I’ll pick some up this weekend and give it a shot.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Images, Tea for health, Tea news, Tea trends

 

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Tea in a Global City

London has the reputation of being the global bastion of tea-drinking – a well-deserved designation. Tea in the increasingly diverse city, however, can no longer be reduced to Twinings and PG Tips. Immigrants living in London have brought their tea customs with them, or have reinvented English tea to suit their cultural tastes and needs.

This diversification of tea in modern England is beautifully illustrated in the BBC film “For All the Tea in England,” by Kerry McLeod.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Tea culture, Tea history, Video

 

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Tea App for iPhone

I just discovered a nifty little iPhone app called “Tea.” It allows you to catalog your tea stores and monitor your brewing habits so that you can make your perfect cup every time. Each time you brew a cup, you enter the name of the tea, the type of tea, the amount (in bags or ounces of loose tea), the steeping time, and the temperature of the water. Then, a timer begins and chimes when you should stop steeping the tea. Then, post-consumption, you rate the taste of the tea. Over time, you can deduce from your records the conditions necessary to brew the perfect cup of a particular tea.

I do have a minor off-the-bat criticism of the app; I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not measure the temperature of the water in my kettle before pouring it over my tea. However, when using the app, I enter either 212 degrees (boiling, for black teas) or a non-boiling (for green teas) temperature, if not a an exact value.

When discussing Tea with my boyfriend, an aerospace engineer, he came up with an idea that could really elevate the app. If the collected data could be shared among users, the app could create a series of graphs — one for each type of tea — with points that represent individual ideal cups of tea. The x-axis of the graph would correspond to steeping temperature, and the y-axis would correspond to steeping time. Therefore, if a user observed a clustering of points around a particular temperature-time intersection, the user would have an idea that that temperature-time combination makes a great cup of that particular tea.

Tea is available in the iPhone app store for $1.99.

A more in-depth review of Tea can be found here.

Tea app

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, Tea recipes, Tea tech

 

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Sun[burn] tea

The Teatotaler is an idiot. Despite my recent decision to forgo trying to achieve a sun-tan — due to a family history of skin cancer and desire to keep my skin youthful for as long as possible — I slipped up. I took an accidental nap on the beach before asking my roommate to slather sunscreen on my back.

The result?

Sunburn

Ouch.

That evening, I took a break from berating myself to catch up on my Twitter feed. As if the Twittersphere was paying attention to mundane details of my life, I saw that one of the homeopathic accounts I follow had posted about natural ways to soothe a sunburn…with TEA! How relevant!

The article revealed that applying cold black tea to a sunburn can ease the pain and tightness that comes along with killing a layer of your living cells (can you tell I’m still frustrated with myself?).

Upon further Googling, I found that several other sites, as well as that of Mother Earth News magazine, confirmed the benefits of topically-applied tea for sunburned skin. Something about the tannic acid and other compounds found in black teas.

One of the sites recommended using earl grey, and since it isn’t my favorite to drink and I have a whole bunch of it on hand from an English tea variety box, that’s what I used. I filled a pitcher with cool water and immersed three tea bags in it. It took much longer to steep to its normal color in the cold water, about 15 minutes.

I then faced the challenge of how I was going to apply a liquid to my back without making a colossal, staining mess. I ventured into my outdoor shower and essentially dumped it over my shoulders. I then sopped up the remaining tea into a dish towel and draped it over my back.

The coolness of the tea itself was soothing initially, and, after all was said and done, it definitely reduced that awful feeling of tightness that sunburns often bring. And it kept me from having to stifle a scream when I rolled onto my back in my sleep.

Ultimately, though, I’d recommend just remembering to wear sunscreen.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Tea for health

 

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Trial Run: Chinese Restaurant Tea

As a special treat for finishing the bulk of my exams, I decided to make myself steak tips on the grill for dinner. So I made the trip to Tops, where tips were on sale (yes!) and then moved to the international food aisle to pick up some Kikkoman teriyaki sauce to marinate the steak. While I was there, this caught my eye:

Chinese restaurant tea

Image courtesy of amazon.com

I was THRILLED! As I mentioned in my bio, my childhood consumption of black tea from small, handle-less cups at the Golden Bowl Chinese restaurant in Quincy, MA, was instrumental to my growth into a tea aficionado. I had no idea that such a thing existed in tea-bag form, at a chain supermarket, and with such a slap-in-the-face-obvious name!

Naturally, I bought some and brewed a cup right when I got home. I prepared it just like my grandmother had at the long-closed Golden Bowl — sweetened with a little sugar but without milk. It looked and tasted EXACTLY how I remembered it! Mahogany in color with a delicate, peppery flavor.

In response to my find, my mom said, “Now we just have to track down the Golden Bowl’s egg rolls.”

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Images, Trial Run

 

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