by William I. Lengeman III

Tea has made considerable inroads in North America in the last decade or so, but it’s still safe to say that the beverage of choice here is coffee. As tea has increased in popularity, one could also safely say that many newcomers to tea have been recruited from the ranks of coffee drinkers.

Have you ever wondered why some people drink coffee but others gravitate toward tea? In 2005, researchers in Australia examined the genetics of tea and coffee drinking. Among the discoveries: “tea and coffee drinking were shown to have similar heritabilities (0.46) in males, but tea consumption was influenced by common environmental factors whereas coffee consumption was not.”

The idea that a nation’s peoples might convert in large numbers from coffee to tea has a historical precedent. According to Brian William Cowan’s The Social Life of Coffee, coffee drinking in Britain was approximately ten times that of tea around 1700. Less expensive and more readily available supplies resulted in imports of tea passing coffee in the 1720s.

These days tea is still cheap and available, but it’s likely that people are taking it up due to health benefits and the notion that it’s more relaxing than coffee. In a book that examines life extension strategies and technologies, Ray Kurzweil suggests switching because of tea’s low caffeine content, antioxidants and L-theanine, a compound “which promotes healthful relaxation.”

To ease a transition from coffee to tea, here are some things to keep in mind. For tea that offers a similar boost and robust flavor, consider black teas like Assam, Yunnan, Keemun or Lapsang Souchong. Other varieties worth investigating include black tea-based breakfast blends, puerh or full-flavored oolongs, such as the Wuyi varieties.

While it’s not technically tea, some coffee drinkers find the flavor and boost from yerba mate to be a workable substitute. Rooibos, or redbush, may be a good choice for anyone looking to give up caffeine altogether, but not wanting to give up the pleasures of a full-flavored beverage.

For more thoughts on switching from coffee to tea, check this thread at the Chowhound forum or an article in which a coffee drinker discusses her conversion to tea.

William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, is a great place to find more info on tea!

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