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Experiments on Tea, Circa 1825

I don’t claim to be an expert on the science of tea, and yet I’d venture to say that we know quite a bit more about this sort of thing than we did a few centuries ago. But as far back as 1825 – and probably even earlier – scientists were bravely forging ahead, trying to unlock the secrets of this fine elixir.

If you don’t believe it, then consider exhibit A, an article from the 1825 edition of The Glasgow Mechanics’ Magazine and Annals of Philosophy titled Experiments on Tea. In which a nameless researcher breaks things down further into Experiments with Black Tea and Experiments with Green Tea and states that they were undertaken, “with a view of ascertaining whether the different effects usually attributed to black and green tea are referable to any particular principle existing in the one which is not to be found in the other.”englishteastore_2159_16335570

The author/researcher sought to compare the composition of teas that were being sold at different prices but not to try to uncover any adulterations that had been made to the tea – a fairly common practice in earlier times.

The black tea experiment got underway with some of “the finest black tea sold in the shops at 12s. per lb.,” which were then subjected to various processes. Less expensive teas were tested and the experiments on green tea are essentially the same and then the author devotes some time to analyzing his results. I have to admit that to my non-scientific mind it’s not completely clear what the researcher was getting at. But there are results there for anyone who would like to take a shot at interpreting them.

In an interesting aside, the author makes reference to some earlier experiments on tea, conducted by a Dr. Lettsom and reported on in his 1799 volume, Natural History of the Tea Tree. More about that particular volume in this article from a few years ago.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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