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.
Dr. Haig, a modern authority on rheumatism, protests that the alkaloids of Tea, coffee, and cocoa prevent uric acid from being excreted, and thrown out of the body; insomuch that mischievous urates accumulate therefrom in the blood, giving rise to gout, and rheumatic attacks. But his conclusions formed thus are probably from a peculiar personal experience rather than of general applicability; at any rate, other observers have arrived at different conclusions from his. He finds (in his own case) that Tea (dry Ceylon), when drunk, furnishes as much as one hundred and seventy-five parts (in a thousand) of uric acid, or xanthin. More ruthlessly is it declared, in The New Hygiene as a Drugless Treatment, that "Tea is a rank poison, which fact is evident from experiments on animals; a strong decoction of green Tea (or its extract) will speedily destroy life in the inferior animals." Fraser concluded, after careful and exhaustive experiments, that "both Tea and coffee tend to retard peptic digestion in the stomach, and intestines; but coffee seems to aid the digestion of eggs (the white), and ham, whilst Tea increases the generation of gases; and therefore coffee is to be preferred for flatulent subjects.
Tea reduces the acid-absorbing power of foods, whilst cocoa increases it, and is therefore the more appropriate beverage for patients suffering from acid indigestion. Tea (particularly), and coffee are to be avoided as accompaniments to meat meals, which require much peptic digestion (in stomach, and intestines)." Tea-tasters insist that the moment the water in the kettle comes to the boil it shall be poured on the leaves; then the infusion is allowed to get cold in the several cups. Ceylon, and Indian Teas become syrupy when cold, and cloud over the surface of the liquid, just as though milk had been put in; but China Tea never clouds in this way. After standing for an hour or so, a ring forms on the inside of the cup where the top of the liquid touches; this is the tannin. It is never seen with China Teas, and rarely with Darjeeling Teas. Respecting Coffee, it is to be noted that the berries when green improve by age up to four years; after which time they deteriorate.
The value of cold Tea as a beverage is not sufficiently known. Literary men, and others accustomed to a sedentary occupation, commonly find that one or two cupfuls of cold Tea, made without adding milk, or sugar, will be as stimulating as the same quantity of sherry; whilst no fear is to be apprehended of subsequent drowsiness, and diminution for a time of the working power, as after imbibing wine, or spirit. Tea, and coffee, tend to cause wakefulness; alcohol, on the other hand, in the second stage of its effects, tends to lethargy, and the promotion of sleep. Old Tony Weller (in Pickwick) said respecting his wife, landlady of the "Marquis of Granby," and when recently deceased, as to her late use of Tea: "She took wery little of anything in that way latterly 'cept on the Temperance nights, ven they just laid a foundation of Tea to put the sperrits a top on." In Alice in Wonderland "the Mad Hatter urges in a trembling voice, to the King at the trial, ' I'm a poor man, your Majesty, and I hadn't begun my tea, not above a week, or so; and what with the bread and butter getting so thin, and the twinkling of the Tea -' 'The twinkling of what?' said the King. 'It began with the Tea,' the Hatter replied. 'Of course twinkling begins with a T,' said the King sharply; 'do you take me for a dunce?' 'Goon!'"
Chocolate was the usual breakfast beverage in the early part of the eighteenth century; thus The Tatler tells that "the fops had their Chocolate in their dressing-gowns, served in their bedrooms, and green Tea two hours later." However, the simple family of John Wesley drank small beer at each meal. Swift, who suffered from deafness, and frequent severe vertigo connected therewith, writes that his physician forbade Bohea, allowing him to drink only green Tea, and coffee. About the middle of the same century Tea had become common among all classes. Hanway relates that "even beggars might be seen drinking their Tea. Country girls, when they sought situations in London, bargained that they must have Tea twice a day".
Those persons who have read Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson will remember what, to use his own words, "a hardened, and shameless Tea-drinker he was; rarely did he let his kettle get cook 'Tea,' said he, ' amuses me in the evening, solaces my midnight, and welcomes me in the morning.' " Lady McLeod, a fashionable dame of the period, wrote in her Diary that "the learned Doctor frequently quaffed sixteen cups when he was spending the evening with her; and Mrs. Piozzi records it that she has sat up until four in the morning listening to the Doctor's clever, but stilted talk, and filling his cups for him. She once suggested his using a bowl instead of an ordinary cup, whereupon he desired to know what was her reason for doing this. ' Oh! to save yourself trouble, Doctor,' she replied, ' not me! ' The Doctor remembered in his early days drinking Tea with Garrick, when Peg Woffington made it, and (so Garrick grumbled) made it ' as red as blood.' " "Tea," wrote De Quincey (1821), "though it is ridiculed by those who are naturally coarse in their nervous sensibilities, or are become so from wine-drinking, and are not susceptible of influence from so refined: a stimulant, yet it will always be the favourite beverage of the intellectual; and for my part I would have joined Dr. Johnson in a helium internecinum against Jonas Hanway, or any other impious person who should have presumed to disparage it." "Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fireside; candles at four o'clock, warm hearthrugs, Tea, a fair Tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and the rain are raging audibly without".