Tea, once the hot beverage of choice for the U.S., has long since fallen out of style with the majority of the American public. Though companies like Teavana and Starbucks are slowly bringing the tea back to the forefront of the American life, tea still has the reputation of being the drink of hippies and “coffee haters”. Despite this image, tea has significant mental and physical health benefits that outmatch coffee in many aspects. But before we explain that, let's take a look at the history of tea in the U.S. Before the British imposed such severe taxes on tea, it was the drink of high ranking politicians and farmers alike, with coffee taking the back seat. In the 1600's tea gained incredibly popularity, becoming very influential in the growth of the US as a trade item. That is, until 1767 when the British enacted a severe importation tax on tea, making it significantly more expensive to sell and consume. When this happened, the colonies turned to coffee and the rest is history. It would not be until over 200 years later that Americans would start enjoying tea again.
Tea is one of the oldest flavored beverages in the world, with history placing it at over 5000 years old, with its invention attributed to the ancient Chinese. Tea was and continues to be used as medicine for the sick and ill, with many healing properties (real and fictional) attributed to the drink. The process of making tea would continue to evolve over the millennia until it reached how we prepare it today, with tea most commonly coming in cloth bags containing powdered tea, to be steeping in boiling water. Though this is convenient, it also removes many of the helpful properties associated with tea. Full tea leaves (unprocessed) still contain all of their antioxidants and plant chemicals that aid in human function. Grinding them up, adding fillers and flavor may make for sweeter tea, but destroys the best part about tea: Its robust flavor and unique taste that varies from plant to plant and even where the leaves were grown. Similar to coffee, mint leaves grown in the northern US will taste different from mint leaves grown in Nepal.Though it has taken significant time, tea has finally made a comeback in America. Starbucks, the Seattle based coffee company, has popularized the sale of higher quality teas with their Tazo line, and helped to bring tea back to popularity. The tea company Teavana has also helped with the same process, providing full leaf teas, high quality mugs, and and teapots. Tea as a drink boasts a wide range of flavors and varieties, each one hosting its own flavor profile. Nearly all teas have a spread of antioxidants to help reduce acidity in the body, and flavanols from the plant leaves that aid in cellular functions. Though they may lack the caffeine content of strong coffee, a well steeped cup of black tea will still provide a strong energy boost, while adding the antioxidants that coffee lacks. Tea, once the drink of choice for all American citizens, has finally made its way back to the public eye. Though I doubt coffee will fall out of style, I’m pleased to see more and more tea drinkers each day, praising the taste and health benefits of this ancient drink. If you are one of the people that has yet to try tea, I encourage you go to your local coffee shop or talk to a friend that routinely enjoys tea, and find a flavor you like. There's one out there for everyone. Have a cup on me.