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In 1840, Anna Maria Bedford, more commonly known as the Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, introduced a new concept of taking afternoon tea. This was the beginning of the tea craze in Europe and North America, and as tea became more popular, people wondered about this strange new beverage. Was it healthy or unhealthy?
In the 19th century, most water was unfit to drink, they didn’t have the knowledge and means to purify water, so tea was wonderful because it forced people to boil their water which killed the bacteria.
Throughout the 1800′s people used to drink beer or ale for breakfast and dinner because it was strong enough to kill bacteria and drinking cold water was simply not safe. When tea became popular beer brewers were threatened because tea was competing with their sales. The brewers started a massive crusade against tea. The church of England joined in because they also felt threatened by tea. (Maybe they thought people would just have tea parties on Sundays instead of going to church.) Don’t forget that tea was a new, foreign imported drink and aroused a lot of suspicion. The church denounced tea as a sinful drink, and according to one account, the church declared that “all men who drink tea will become impotent, and all women who drink tea will become ugly”.
In 1822 William Cobbett, who was a member of parliament and a social commentator wrote an article called “The Evils of Tea”. In it he declared, “I view tea drinking as a destroyer of health, an engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age.”
Interestingly, despite this bad publicity, tea became increasingly popular throughout the 1800′s. When scientists at the time were asked about the health benefits of tea, they simply stated that it was a pleasant, mildly stimulating drink and that in moderation thay could see nothing wrong with it.
This scientific view that tea was neither here nor there as far as health benefits was held for more then a century. In fact, scientists only started taking a real good look at tea’s health benefits in the early 1990′s. And what they found, and are continuing to find is astounding…