(ETS Image)

(ETS Image)

Nowadays, when we turn to Cosmopolitan magazine, it’s for advice on such topics of earth-shaking importance as love tricks, lean thighs, and flat abs. But it was not always thus. If you’re not up on the history of that publication, then you might not be aware that is was started in 1886 and included in its pages works by such literary luminaries as Theodore Dreiser, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Willa Cather, and Edith Wharton.

In the 1899 issues of the magazine you could find articles about fashion and food but also about topics like marine disasters, air-ships, and the Philippines. Or one called “Tea-Drinking in Many Lands,” by Laura B. Starr. It’s an extensive piece, illustrated with numerous photos and drawings. And, as the name suggests, it examines tea culture in various countries.

Although from the beginning of the article the author takes a broad view of what constitutes tea, a term that’s technically given to an infusion made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. We are informed that the “Coreans” might resort to infusing ginger when they can’t afford tea while the Siberians sometimes drink cabbage tea – or should that be cabbage soup?

In Japan, the “tea” is sometimes made of salted cherry blossoms, parched barley, or beans. In China and France ginseng is likely to be the infusion of choice, while South American yerba mate also comes in for a mention, well over a century before it became trendy to own a bombilla.

But it’s not long before the author moves on to “real” tea, giving a legend for its origin and a brief history of how it originated in China and later wound up in Japan and then Europe. After a few humorous stories about tea, she moves on to give a short overview of what tea is and where it comes from.

The author notes that the United States is one of biggest customers for Japanese green tea and that tea is “indispensable” and the national drink in Russia. The author then reveals that some North American Indians were quite keen fans of tea (who knew?) and goes on to discuss tea culture in Morocco, Japan, and China.

It’s an interesting look at how tea was once done in various parts of the world. You can access the full article here.

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

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