This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Tea," said he, "to be useful, should first of all be black China Tea; the Indian Tea which is being cultivated has become so powerful in its effects upon the nervous system that a cup of it taken in the early morning (as many persons do) so upsets the nervous centres as to actually induce a state of Tea-intoxication, which it is distressing to see. If you require Tea for your patients, or yourselves, which shall refresh without doing any harm, get black China Tea, putting in the right measure, - the old-fashioned teaspoonful for each person, and one for the blessed pot; then pour on boiling water, and within five minutes you must pour it off again, or it will become wicked instead of good".
In Italy, Greece, and some parts of the East, where Tea is comparatively unknown, and never used habitually, it is customary when anybody feels ill, with indefinite symptoms, to send for a dose of Tea from the druggist. Its action on persons who do not drink the infusion as a regular thing, appears to be specially potent in arresting early signs of fever, with headache, and general malaise. Count Romford, Founder of the Royal Institution, has told how to prepare the "burnt soup." which is the mainstay of the Bavarian woodcutters, and their ordinary breakfast, "infinitely preferable in all respects to that most pernicious wash, Tea, with which the lower classes of those persons who inhabit this island drench their stomachs, and ruin their constitutions." He adds: "When Tea is taken with a sufficient quantity of sugar, and of good cream, and with a large allowance of bread and butter, or with toast, and boiled eggs, and, above all, when it is not drunk too hot, it is certainly less unwholesome; but Tea, as the poor usually take it, - a simple infusion of this drug, drunk boiling hot, - is undoubtedly a poison; which, though sometimes slow in its operation, yet never fails to produce fatal effects even on the strongest constitutions when the free use of it is continued for a considerable length of time." For making a good cup of Tea, the water should always be fresh boiled, and used as soon as possible afterwards; if the water has been boiling for some time, then the strength, and quality of the Tea will be impaired.
Of the Teas now consumed in this country, the greater part by far come from British India, and Ceylon; the demand for China Tea is proved to have been greatly reduced during the last two or three years. Six pounds of Tea per head are computed to serve our community, and of this quantity only one-third of a pound of China Tea is included for each consumer. In America, and Russia (both being Tea-drinking countries) only a little over one pound a head is used yearly, and in other European countries it is but a fraction of a pound per head. We therefore drink more than the United States, and all European countries put together. Besides taking fresh lemon with their Tea, the Russians have a fashion of mixing jam with it, half and half, (to say nothing of their taking beet soup served with thick, sour cream; or, again, roast duck with pickled cherries). In Spain, where Tea is made commonly for drinking, a leaf of the lemon verbena plant is placed in each cup, and the hot Tea is poured upon it. Some of the rustics in China add ginger and salt to their Tea. The French celebrity, Balzac, used to drink a Tea of unique quality, and fabulous value, which he reserved for special occasions, and special friends.
This Tea had a history: it was gathered by young and beautiful virgins, chosen for the purpose, who had to pick the leaves before sunrise, and then to carry them, with singing, to the Chinese Emperor. Balzac received some of the same precious leaf through a well-known Russian Minister. There was a superstition attached to it that more than one cup of this almost sacred liquid was a desecration, and would cost the drinker the loss of his eyesight. One of Balzac's chief friends, Laurent Jan, never drank it without remarking apprehensively, "Once again I risk an eye, but it's worth it".
Of the Indian and Ceylon Tea, the young shoot at the top of the plant produces the finest Tea, - "flowery, and orange Pekoe,"
- from its juicy leaves; or, if these are still smaller, the "broken Pekoe." The Tea from the somewhat larger leaves next below is "Pekoe"; the next largest again below make "Souchong"; the leaves still lower "Congou"; while a yet coarser leaf near the base of the shoot used to yield "Bohea," which has now almost entirely disappeared from commerce. In China the whole end of the young shoot goes to form Pekoe, while the leaves below that are Souchong. Pekoes, and Souchongs are unblended Teas. For black Tea the leaves are withered in the sun, and rolled until mashy, then made into balls, and allowed to ferment, so that the essential oils are produced, some bitterness is developed, and the tannin is partially oxidized, becoming less soluble to ome extent. For green Tea the fresh leaves are withered in hot pans at 160° Fahrenheit, then rolled, and withered again, next sweated in bags, and afterwards slowly roasted; thus the difference is that green Tea is fermented.
The character of the water in which Tea is infused is of the first importance; it should be well aerated, and have freshly come to the boil (not too hard), and the teapot first warmed, so that the boiling temperature may be maintained. The addition of milk, or cream, (though an outrage in the eyes of connoisseurs), is to be commended, because the albuminous matter of the milk tends to throw down some of the tannic acid of the Tea in an insoluble form. Sugar does not increase the wholesomeness of the beverage, but adds considerably to its nutritive value. All second brews should be avoided, because every useful constituent of the leaves has been already extracted. A Jesuit who came from China, instructed Sir Kenelm Digby, 1645, "that Tea when infused should not stand longer than you can sing the Miserere very leisurely; and then be poured on the sugar in the cups".