A great tea from India: Darjeeling (ETS Image)

A great tea from India: Darjeeling (ETS Image)

So which great people throughout history drank tea and which did not? This is hardly the place to do an in-depth review of the topic, but we can be pretty sure about the tea drinking habits – or lack thereof – of certain great historical figures based on where and when they lived. It’s likely that Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and William the Conqueror never drank tea, simply because they lived in Europe long before tea is known to have been introduced there.

Then there are those historical types whom we might expect to be tea lovers but who weren’t. Take Gandhi, for instance, who lived in India, a country that by the time he lived was already a powerhouse of tea production. Though Gandhi was once a tea drinker, he came to believe that tea was an intoxicant and that the tannins it contained were bad for health. Thus he gave it up. Take a look at his tea-free ginger lemon alternative at his grandson’s web site.

Another great head of state, Winston Churchill, apparently was not all that enamored of tea either, according to the National Churchill Museum, who claim that he avoided it. He tended to forego that time-honored ritual of afternoon tea and apparently preferred to drink something with a little more of a kick than tea.

Like the English, the Russians were hardly slouches when it came to tea drinking and even gave the world a tea prep gadget known as the samovar. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Russian dictator Vladimir Lenin was a tea drinker. As a contemporary biography recalls, black bread, tea, and porridge was a common meal for Lenin and in the those early violent days of the revolution he often drank his tea without sugar as a measure of solidarity with the rest of the population.

Then there are our presidents. Tea and coffee were served at breakfast in the household of our first president, while Jefferson apparently bought some of a tea he sampled in Amsterdam to take back home. Mary Lincoln is known to have served tea and cakes to her guests while Rutherford B. Hayes mixed it up, with a cup of coffee at breakfast and one of tea at lunch. As for Honest Abe Lincoln, one legend recounts that when he was a storekeeper in his early days, he walked a great distance just to make a customer’s tea order right.

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

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