Beverages – Tea

When one drinks tea in England it probably tastes better than on the Continent, but I consider it less healthful, if indeed the term healthful may be used in referring to tea. Personally, I am of a different opinion. The English tea tastes very strong; in fact, the English have a preference for strong spices, flavors, and drinks, which however do them no great harm, as they are especially long-lived. In England the Indian or Ceylon teas are mostly used, which are not only stronger, but also contain more tannic acid, than the Chinese tea. Whoever likes a mild, very pleasant tasting tea would do well to drink “tschaj” in Russia, where it is always brewed in the samovar at every breakfast, dinner, and supper. This tea tastes better and has a finer aroma than the strong tea one gets in England.

The amount of tannic acid contained in tea plays an important part, for it is this substance which in many persons causes acid eructations after drinking tea; this is especially the case when it is taken on an empty stomach: It is best to take tea with bread and ham, as advised by Hutchison. As they are a tea-drinking nation, English investigators, and Roberts in particular, have carefully considered the qualities and disadvantages of tea. He found that, owing to the tannic acid which it contains, tea retarded the digestion of starches—the Chinese tea less so than other varieties.

As shown above, tea is particularly rich in iron. It is also evident that a quantity of tannic substance is contained in tealeaves—more in the green than in the black. It is just this tannic acid content which is so injurious for the stomach. The longer the tea-leaves are drawn, that is to say, the longer it takes to make the tea, the more tannic acid there will be in it. In order to minimize the effect of the tannic acid Roberts recommends that a small quantity of bicarbonate of soda be placed in the teacup. This also remedies the injurious effect of the tea upon the digestion of the starches. The taste of the tea is not in any way affected. He also states that it is best to take tea after a meal. With an empty stomach both tea and coffee are injurious. When the stomach is sensitive, Roberts advises the use of very little tea, which should at the same time be quite weak. According to a table by Hutchison, tea is more easily digested than coffee. Thus, 220 cubic centimeters of tea remained only one and one-half hours in the stomach ; the same quantity of coffee one and three-quarter hours. Cocoa is even more digestible, for it remained in the stomach only one and one-quarter hours. Tea contains a substance identical with caffeine, which is here called theine. This also has an excitant effect upon the nervous system, in many cases even more so than caffeine, especially in regard to preventing sleep. Tea is consequently no better adapted for the use of nervous persons than is coffee; when one cannot well do without it, it would be advisable to weaken it with a great deal of milk, and in this way the tannic acid would be less disturbing for the digestion.

In preparing tea the directions given by Hutchison, which I shall now quote, should be followed : The water, in boiling, must first be in full ebullition, and the teapot should also be heated, as otherwise many volatile substances would not be drawn out from the leaves. The infusion should only last from four to five minutes, for when it is drawn for a longer time too much tannic acid and other bitter substances will go into the tea. The water is here o,f the same importance as when making coffee. Hutchison says that the Chinese prefer using the water of running streams, then mountain spring water or that of rivers; spring water is least adapted for the purpose. Since the water should take up air, the pitcher or kettle should be held high tip when the water is poured over the tea. The water should not be too rapidly boiled. Hard water is bad, and some bicarbonate of soda should be placed in the pot; otherwise, certain important constituents which affect the taste would be lacking. In regard to the quantity of tea to be used, I give the English rule quoted by Hutchison : “One teaspoonful for each person and one for the pot.”