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September 27, 1976

Tea Toxicity

Author Affiliations

Addiction Research Foundation Toronto

JAMA. 1976;236(13):1452. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270140018011

To the Editor.—  Dr John Greden, in his fascinating account of the tea controversy in colonial America (236:63-66, 1976), admirably described the supposed baneful and beneficial effects of caffeine-beverage use, many of which are still being debated. Dr Greden himself has made a valuable contribution to the contemporary discussion by noting the possibilities for confusion between chronic undifferentiated anxiety and caffeinism.1 As now, the 18th century controversy was fueled by a dearth of relevant data. Some evidence on the effects of caffeine was an unintended consequence of activities in Boston harbor in December 1773. It was relayed somewhat laconically in the London Public Advertiser the following month:Letters from Boston complain much of the taste of their fish being altered: four or five hundred chests of tea have so contaminated the water in the harbour, that the fish may have contracted a disorder not unlike the nervous complaints of