Among most people who bother to have an opinion on tea these days it’s likely that the opinion will be a positive one. Which has been the case throughout of history – at least for the most part. But from the earliest days of tea drinking in the West you could find those who praised it for its health-giving properties and other qualities, just as you could find some who weren’t quite so enamored of it.

An article that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1897 laid out the issue in no uncertain terms, sporting the rather unambiguous title, “The Evils of Tea-Drinking.” The unnamed author of this work seemed to think that he or she was living in a time of “Tea-worship” and decided that it was time to warn the world about the perils of “tea-debauchery.” Which sounds like some pretty serious stuff.

Once a vice that was confined to “nervous old persons,” claims the author, things eventually degenerated to the point that “nearly everyone is more or less addicted to its use.” Much of this rampant addiction is blamed on the custom of afternoon tea.

Though the author wastes no words on railing against this vile concoction, there is a brief aside to actually acknowledge that in its hot form it is “acceptable as a stomachic and general stimulant.” Perhaps aware that this was way too much praise expended on tea, the passage that follows stresses that iced tea is a really, really bad thing.

But, of course, that’s not all. Milk in tea comes in for a bit of grumbling, and then there’s the “further perversion with sugar.” All of this, if I may share a particularly colorful turn of phrase, is “sufficient to cause obstinate gastric derangements and their manifold complications.”

And so it goes. I could share more of the author’s dissatisfaction with this vile drink we call tea, but I’d recommend that you experience it for yourself. It’s just a quick web search away.

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

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