Is There Really Such a Thing as Being “Tea Drunk”?

A nice cuppa Assam TGFOP or even a dozen won’t get you drunk. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
A nice cuppa Assam TGFOP or even a dozen won’t get you drunk. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The other day on Facebook someone said he was “tea drunk.” It’s a term I’ve heard before but have never seen explained fully. So, I asked him what he meant. He said it made him feel rather woozy. I asked if it was the caffeine or just drinking a lot of liquids that was affecting him, but got no reply. He might have thought I was being a bit of a pest, but my inquiry was serious and leads to this question: Is there really such a thing as being “tea drunk”?

First, for all you teetotalers out there (me included), there is no alcohol in tea. So how could you get “drunk” on it? Here’s what one tea vendor says (selected as representative of what is being posted on the subject):

If you drink too much strong tea, it can have repercussions on your body similar to drinking too much alcohol, for example you may be troubled by tinnitus (a persistent ringing in the ears), or experience dizziness and fatigue. If you overindulge in strong black teas, your stomach will also feel bloated and overfull, even if you haven’t eaten and will cause nausea especially if you drink a lot of strong tea on an empty stomach. Serious cases of drinking too much strong tea at once can even cause dry heaving. … much higher levels of caffeine, active alkaloids and other aromatic substances…can stimulate the central nervous system and stomach, which can cause one to feel inebriated.

Not very precise. How much is too much? What constitutes overindulgence? Also, I have yet to experience any of these symptoms despite imbibing around an average of 8 to 10 12-ounce cupfuls a day of strong black tea with milk and sweetener. As for feeling bloated and overfull, just about any liquid will do that, even broth. As for nausea, milk may prevent any upset I would normally experience where others who don’t use milk might get that effect.

But how does the vendor’s explanation compare to the clinical definition of being drunk?

Here are some options:

  • From “Intoxicated with alcoholic liquor to the point of impairment of physical and mental faculties.”
  • From “someone has consumed enough alcohol to cause the functions of the body to slow down. This can result in a variety of physical experiences including: Not being able to walk or see straight; Reduced speed of thought; The lowering of inhibitions.”
  • From good ole Merriam-Webster: “1 a: having the faculties impaired by alcohol; b: having a level of alcohol in the blood that exceeds a maximum prescribed by law; 2: dominated by an intense feeling; 3: relating to, caused by, or characterized by intoxication”
  • This article suggests that drunkenness may be a trick of the mind where just thinking that you’re drinking alcohol makes you experience the effects.

The common factor in all of the above: alcohol. Which, as I said up front, tea doesn’t have. Alcohol affects the brain where the tea “drunkenness” seems to be a matter of how other areas are affected.

The whole “tea drunk” things seems a misnomer possibly intended to attract younger and/or more “lively” crowds. A search for “tea drunk” on Facebook popped up several groups and individuals, mostly in their teens and 20s. There was also a Facebook “tea room” named Tea Drunkards (the company page for but it was recently changed to the company’s name, and a company called Drunken Tea Art Centre.

I will just continue to drink tea and enjoy!

See also:
Drunk on Tea?
Tea, Hangovers & Tea Drunkenness

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2 thoughts on “Is There Really Such a Thing as Being “Tea Drunk”?

  1. Pingback: The Best of the English Tea Store Tea Blog in 2013 | Tea Blog

  2. Pingback: What’s All This “Tea Liquor” Talk? | Tea Blog

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