Tea, with which we are all so familiar, is in reality a number of dried rolled leaves of the tea plant, Camellia Thea, cultivated chiefly in China and the contiguous countries. It is used excessively throughout Australasia - for has it not been shown that our four million people use more of this beverage than the millions who inhabit Continental Europe, if Russia be excepted ? This fact is much to be deplored, for when taken in excess it causes severe functional derangement of the digestive organs, and prejudicially affects the nervous system. The gentler sex are greatly given to extravagant tea-drinking, exceeding all bounds of moderation in this respect. Many of them, moreover, live absolutely on nothing else but tea and bread and butter. What wonder, then, that they grow pale and bloodless; that their muscles turn soft and flabby; that their nervous system becomes shattered; and that they suffer the agonies of indigestion ? Their favourite time for a chat and the consumption of tea is at any period between ten o'clock in the morning and three in the afternoon. Now, if there is anything of which I am certain, it is that tea in the middle of the day, say from ten o'clock to three, is a deadly destructive fluid. And I am equally certain, too, that innumerable numbers of young girls employed in business do themselves an irreparable amount of injury by making their mid-day meal consist of nothing else but tea and a little bread and butter. There is no nourishment whatever in such fare, and it inevitably leads to the bad symptoms already detailed and general unhealthiness, if not to the onset of graver disease. No, they require something which is nutritious, such as a little warm soup of some kind, a modicum of bread, and say two different varieties of vegetables to follow. Of course this may be extended to include pudding, stewed fruit, etc, but the former is ample enough in many respects. This is a very important matter to which the attention of proprietors and managers of large establishments, factories, and other places employing many female hands might well be directed. And, moreover, if ever there was an opportunity for an active organization to achieve really valuable work, it would be in seeing that our city girls had something better to eat in the middle of the day than tea and bread and butter.
As in every other case, however, there is all the difference in the world between the use of anything and its abuse. It is wrong to assume that, because a great deal of something is injurious, a small quantity judiciously employed is equally pernicious. And so it is even in the case of tea, for it is not to be denied that a fragrant cup of tea is very agreeable. As Dr. Vivian Poore most appropriately remarked in replying to the argument that the lower animals did not require tea, coffee, etc.: ""We are not lower "animals; we have minds as well as bodies; and since these "substances have the property of enabling us to bear our "worries and fatigues, let us accept them, make rational use "of them, and be thankful." Of course everything hinges upon the correct interpretation of the terms "small " quantity, and "judiciously " employed. It may be said, however, that the drinking of large cups of tea is never to be sanctioned under any circumstances whatever. It should rather be looked upon as a delicate fluid to be imbibed only in very small quantities. It should certainly not be used in the middle of the day, between those hours which I have specified; nor should it be taken during the evening, for it almost always disturbs the night's rest.
There was a great controversy as to the proper way of making tea in the medical papers not very long ago. It is of course a perennial topic, and always excites considerable interest. This particular discussion began in this way. A new tea-pot, called the anti-tannic tea-pot, appeared on the scene, and was favoured with a long description by the British Medical Journal. It was claimed for this special model that it extracted only the theine, and not the tannin from the tea. Now, as a matter of fact, it is simply impossible to make tea, no matter how it is made, entirely free from tannin. It is quite true that many suppose by infusing the tea for a very brief period only - two or three minutes - the passage of the tannin into the beverage can be prevented, but, as Sir William Roberts has pointed out, this is quite a delusion. Tannin is one of the most soluble substances known, and melts in hot water just as sugar does. Tea made experimentally, by pouring boiling water on the dry leaves placed on filter paper, contains tannin. As Sir William remarks, you can no more have tea without tannin, than you can have wine without alcohol.
Nevertheless, it is a fact that this anti-tannic tea-pot has many excellent points about it, and is sure to meet with favour. It is really an attempt to make tea by a more certain method than is generally employed; for I think it must be admitted that the present happy-go-lucky style has not much to recommend it. On one occasion the tea will be excellent - and on another either as weak as water, or with such a sharp acrid taste that it is almost undrinkable. In the latter case the tea has been allowed to soak so long that it has become a decoction instead of an infusion. The consequence of this prolonged action of the hot water on the tea is that it brings out the bitter extractive material of the plant, and it is this which proves so particularly pernicious. Tea at sea is proverbially unpalatable, and invariably disagrees, owing chiefly to the fact that it is a boiled decoction of tea leaves and nothing else.