The phrase “Substitute for Tea” appears as a heading in Five Thousand Receipts: in all the Useful and Domestic Arts, by Colin MacKenzie, published in 1854.
Seriously? So, someone thinks that there is a substitute for tea? Tea? Of course, this particular edition of the book was published in America, which might explain the odd idea. Much as I love many of you, dear American readers, let us be honest – most of you are not tea aficionados. I have always suffered a brief sense of disconnect when, on ordering tea in America, I have been asked if I want it “hot?” Well of course, hot. The brew gets very bitter if you let it get cold in the pot, and if you let it get cold in the cup, the milk goes all scummy on the top, doncha know?
I also have no argument with Mr. MacKenzie personally for his misleading use of the language, and his masquerading as a gastro-enterologist and neurologist with his comments on digestion and nerves. I am one-eighth MacKenzie myself, and feel kindly toward him on that account, and anyway, his recipes (yes, plural) are also quite interesting, if you don’t for one minute believe the beverages are the same as tea.
Seriously, again. I have no problems with the concept of alternatives for tea as a hot, soothing beverage. But substitutes, never. Allow me to be pedantic for a moment. The beverages suggested below are tisanes.
Substitute for Tea.
In consequence of the injurious effects on the stomach and nervous system, produced by the leaves of the oriental an nib imported into this country, under the name of tea., mixtures of British herbs have been recommended as a substitute for tea and coffee for breakfast, and an evening repast. An infusion of the following composition, lately recommended by an eminent physician of Edinburgh, has since been found more pleasant to the palate, and more salubrious as an article of diet, than either of the compositions of herbs. It is an excellent nervous stomachic, and in cases of indigestion, or what is termed "bilious affections" arising either from debility or nervous irritability, it has proved highly beneficial after stomachic bitters had entirely tailed. It has, likewise, this important advantage over tonic medicines, and foreign tea and coffee, that its long continued use will not injure the stomach; but, on the contrary, by keeping up healthy digestion, and by quieting the nerves, is likely to prevent the organic diseases of the stomach, which of late years have apparently increased in Europe.
Take of the heels of unfolded petals of the red-rose, dried, 5 parts, rosemary leaves, ditto. 1 ditto balm leaves, ditto. 2 do. Mix.
A dessert spoonful of this composition is sufficient for half a pint of infusion. It is made in the same manner as tea, with sugar and cream, or milk. It is sold at 2s. and 9d. a pound,— one pound will go as far as two pounds of tea.
Another.—In Germany the leaves of strawberry flowers are substituted for green tea. The following are the directions for preparing them. The leaves with the flowers are to be gathered in the spring, while they are young, and only the smoothest and cleanest leaves selected, as they are not to be washed. They must be dried in the air, but not in the sun, as drying them in the sun would lessen their flavour. To these leaves the Germans give the appearance of China tea, by first pinching their stalks clean off, then warming the leaves over the fire, rolling them up in the hand while they remain flexible, and drying them thus rolled. When the leaves are thoroughly dried, the tea is fit for use, and on being made exactly in the same manner as China green tea, it is hardly possible to discover the difference. The young and tender leaves of the sloe tree or black thorn, when dried, afford a good substitute for foreign tea.