Thursday, June 27, 2013

Substitute for Tea?

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.


Manassas said...

I am American and I do agree your statement that most Americans “are not tea aficionados”. I would say that most Americans think it is a beverage served iced, and depending upon whether you reside north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line, iced tea is served ridiculously sweet or completely sans sugar.
What is weird about tea in America is that it is more of a medical elixir than a beverage. We have a tea for lots of medical conditions. It is the probably one of the most common ways of ingesting homeopathic remedies. If you can’t sleep, there is a tea for that. Constipated, no problem we have a tea for that too. If your throat is sore drink slippery elm tea (I am actually rather fond of that one). We even have a tea that aids women who suffer from post menstrual syndrome.
Anyway, I love your blog and if you are suffering from a minor medical condition, come back to America, because we might have a tea for that…

Kelsey said...

These do sound pretty good. As an American tea aficionado, I do have to say that there is no real substitute for tea though! ;)
I did a grad paper on Thomas Tryon, a 17th centery vegetarian who also advocated tea substitues. He recommended dandelion (aka Lyons-Tooth) infused for 30 in boiled water with white sugar, or "Sage, Penny-Royal, Mint, Mother of Thime, or Garden Thime."

korenni said...

Also an American, I love tea, hot or iced. If you use plain black tea for iced tea, it's delicious plain or with a spoonful of sugar and a slice of lemon, or no sugar and a little crushed mint. The most refreshing beverage I know of for summer. Just don't use Lapsang Souchong or Earl Grey!

Dried hibiscus flower (known as jamaica in areas with any Latino community) also makes a flavorful cold tisane. It's best with a little sugar, but add too much and it gets syrupy.