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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 2, 2005


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(5):632. doi:10.1001/jama.293.5.632-b

Every little while there is an outcry against the practices of tea and coffee drinking. Lately it has been alleged that the degeneracy observed in the lower classes of Great Britain is largely due to the immense quantities of tea which is drunk in that kingdom. Without any doubt, a few people do drink too much tea and would be better without it. But tea drinking, as in China, may be the salvation of a people from much greater evils. The decoction has at least the advantage of having been sterilized by heat, and water drinking in China has its dangers, as many an old traveler can testify. The immense quantities of tea used without apparent damage by some of the most robust peoples in the world other than the Chinese, such, for example, as the Russians, the Hudson Bay voyageurs and the lumbermen of the North, does not testify to its evil effects on general health, under proper conditions. For a cold country it is almost an ideal stimulant, reviving the energies, even after almost apparently complete exhaustion, and affording a feeling of comfort that hardly anything else can give, and this without any noticeable uncomfortable after-effects. Of course, in our civilization there are some who take too much of many things for their own good, but even in these cases it is hard to say that the evil is as great as sometimes charged. The practice of giving large quantities of strong tea to mere infants, which is common among certain of the poorer classes of our cities, of course can not be too much condemned, but it is astonishing how many infants seem to thrive on it. There should be some discrimination in the general condemnation of such stimulants as tea and coffee. They probably do more good than harm, and we should welcome their use if by any means or to any extent they can be made a substitute for things that are worse, and if the habit were universal in some of our insanitary communities we might find it here, as among the earthly Celestials, the safeguard against many serious evils. If the question is asked, “What is the poor man to drink?” there need be no hesitation in answering: “Tea.”

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