Tea and Thanksgiving

When it comes to great American holidays in which we all gather to watch football on TV and eat ourselves into a coma, it’s hard to beat Thanksgiving. But how does tea figure into this, you might be asking yourself.

Video: History of Thanksgiving (click on image to go to site and view this) (Photo source: screen capture from site)
Video: History of Thanksgiving (click on image to go to site and view this) (Photo source: screen capture from site)

To be quite honest, it’s probably not likely that tea figured into the first Thanksgiving celebration. As any first-grader worth their salt can probably tell you, the Thanksgiving holiday that we celebrate today can be traced back to that fabled first gathering of Pilgrims and American Indians, who got together for a three-day harvest celebration in November, 1621.

The myths and legends about Thanksgiving are many and varied, and you can read about a few of them here. While it may be hard to sort out the exact truth about this first feast, it’s safe to say that there was probably no “real” tea (from the plant Camellia Sinensis) consumed. Though it’s not one hundred percent out of the realm of possibility.

According to one reliable source, the first European reference to tea came in 1545 in an introduction to the works of Marco Polo. The Dutch are thought to have been the first to bring tea to Europe, probably in 1610. They sponsored a voyage of exploration to eastern North America the year before that and began settling in the mid-Atlantic region as early as 1613.

So, while the British may not have been introduced to tea for another several decades after 1610 and ditto for the formerly British Pilgrims, it’s at least conceivable that the Dutch had begun to bring tea to the New World by 1621. Although the aforementioned reliable source vaguely dates this event to “the middle of the 17th century.”

Which makes for interesting speculation but let’s put that aside for the moment and talk turkey (and tea). One of the truisms about turkey that’s actually true is that it contains tryptophan, a chemical which helps contribute to that overwhelming drowsy feeling one gets after eating it. Which is a perfect excuse to call upon the pick-me-up qualities of as much tea as you can consume.

As for turkey recipes, if Grilled Tea-Brined Turkey with Tea-and-Lemon Gravy sounds like it might float your boat, then look no further than this recipe from Epicurious, which uses Earl Grey tea. If you’ve always wondered what tea goes best with turkey, the good people at The Nibble are ahead of you. They recommend oolong or any of a number of black teas, including Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Yunnan.

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