Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tea torture

‘In England, health claims and warnings, often fanciful, were touted almost as soon as the first cup of coffee was served…In Advice Against Plague, published in 1665, Gideon Harvey, an English physician and medical writer, counselled, “Coffee is recommended against the contagion,” that is, against the bubonic plague that was then in the process of killing a quarter of London’s population. However, there were two sides to this debate: A translation of an Arabian medical text admonished English readers that coffee “causeth vertiginous headache, and maketh lean much, occasional waking…and sometimes breeds melancholy.”

The health claims for tea are even older. The Chinese scholar Kuo P’o, in about A.D. 350, in annotating a Chinese dictionary, describes preparing a medicinal drink by boiling raw, green tea leaves in kettles. Because boiling kills bacteria, the putative health benefits and claims for longevity may have had some foundation. In England, during the years of Cromwell’s Protectorate, the importation of tea was made acceptable only by its sale as a medicinal drink. A typical advertisement in a London newspaper at the time claimed, “That Excellent and by all Physitians approved China drink, called by the Chinese Tcha, by other nations Tay alias Tea.”’

-from The World of Caffeine (p.xiii)

Yesterday, I wrote about the preventative health benefits of tea drinking. I’ve looked at this topic before, but nearly every time I read about it, the scientists say that it looks as if there’s a connection between better health and moderate (even excessive) caffeine intake, but that they can’t say exactly which chemical compounds make it so. For me this is of no real consequence. I understand why they want to narrow it down to the specific compound. Then you could make a drug with the same effects. But there are allegedly so many chemical properties of caffeine that it’s difficult to isolate any one of them. At least that’s what I’ve read again and again.

Later in the text it states that when they did studies about caffeine’s positive effects, the subjects had to be told they were receiving caffeine for the results to be effective. This would indicate that a placebo might be just as good. Just tell someone the drink they’re enjoying is loaded with delicious, caffeinated healthiness and that makes it true? They feel better? This I have a hard time believing, but it seems at least plausible.

I have noticed that the careful preparation and the little habits I have before I can actually start drinking the stuff seem to be nearly as calming as the actual tea-drinking. That would seem to support the hypothesis. I’m not so sure one can separate the two things: the anticipation and the ingestion. As soon as I write that I realise, ‘Yes of course you could separate the two. Make some tea and don’t drink it.’

Sounds like torture doesn’t it?

1 comment:

  1. But apart from sharing your tea, what is the use of making tea and not drinking tea?

    As for the anticipation and the real event, this is quite common and not only with tea or coffee drinking.
    Just go to the dentist (a good one), you fear when he/she is going to get in your mouth with the strange tools he/she has.
    Once he/she is there, it is not comfortable but the fear is gone (but you might have pain).

    It is the same when you fear to speak in front of strangers, the fear is stronger before speaking and slowly drift away as you speak.