Why Tea? The Tea Consumption Culture in the United States [FULL DRAFT Version 1]

To create tea, one has to acquire leaves. However, they can’t be any kind of leaves; they have to be tea leaves from South America or Africa “where the majority of Europe’s and America’s [tea] originates from” (Hodge); however, some of these leaves can be from the Asian region also.  After obtaining the tea leaves or the tea bags, the individual must put them in boiling hot – not freezing cold – water. Depending on whether the tea is white, green, herbal, black, or some other flavor, the liquid substance may differ not only in color but in taste. The individual can then pour it into a cup and enjoy it while performing some other task. But, hot tea isn’t the only kind of tea that exists. There other kinds that are favorites back home in Texas: Good ole iced tea and sweet tea. I believe it’s made in the same manner as regular tea except there’s the addition of ice and sugar involved.

“You know quite a bit about tea, Angelica,” you may be wondering. “You must be an avid fan of it.”

Not quite. You see, I’ve had several kinds of tea before, hot and iced alike, but I never did like the texture of the tea nor the aftertaste it leaves in my mouth, no matter what flavor it is. So I never got on board with this mass liking of tea that’s heightened over the last couple of years. Most of my knowledge of tea, actually, comes from observing my family, mainly my mother and sister, and friends. In fact, one of my best friends is a tea aficionado to the point where she even stores packets of tea in her locker.

So I’ve always wondered: why is tea relevant to our American culture? Sure, the influx of Asian immigrants and their bringing of their tea have increased the interest in the beverage. Sure, there are the health benefits. But then, what about German immigrants and beer? Beer and apple juice together have health benefits if drunk in moderation. In fact, light beer “contains ethanol [and] there is . . . a positive effect on heart health” (Ansel). But yet, among adults and definitely among teenagers, they much prefer tea. Why is that?

Thinking about this topic, I have come to this conclusion: the United States of America is just living out its reputation of being “England’s favorite yet rebellious child” per two of my friends who currently reside in England. That means the United States constantly strives to win the favor of the country. In fact, I will argue that the United States never grew out of love for tea and that love only intensified after declaring independence from Mother England.  In other words, Americans want change, but if it affects what they love, they shy away from that change.

One instance in history that exemplifies this is the well-known but misunderstood event called the Boston Tea Party. One might think they know the story: some Patriots dressed up as Native Americans, hijack a few India East Company ships, and destroy the tea, throwing some of it into the harbor. This made the British upset, causing them to tax the American colonists even more. This is the story most schools teach. However, what most United States History teachers don’t mention is how some of the most prominent American figures reacted to this event. For example, Benjamin Franklin, one of the future Founding Fathers, “urged Boston leaders to repay the East India Company for the destroyed tea.” (Carp) Another future Founding Father and future president George Washington “condemned the Boston Tea Party [and] voiced his disapproval” (Klein) over the destruction of the tea. In the end, the Boston Tea Party and tea vandalism wasn’t what brought the American people to rally against the British, but rather it was the multiple occasions of taxation without representation, such as the Tea Act of 1773. Only as a last resort did the American colonists boycott the drink they all loved, thanks to their English ancestors.

So how is this event relevant to the American tea culture of today, 241 years later? Simply put, tea is “semblance of permanence” (Yang 175); this means that throughout the years, Americans have always depended on tea for its good and beneficial quality. However, that doesn’t mean that tea hasn’t gone through social revolutions. In fact, only quite recently has tea evolved from being the choice beverage of the upper class to being an everyday drink that is drunk by the masses.

“Okay, Angelica, but what about coffee? Aren’t we a nation of coffee, not of tea?”

I’m glad you asked.

In a Washington post article by Roberto Ferdman, which was later republished in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Ferdman lists all sorts of facts that show that the United States is – as the article is aptly named – a tea drinker nation. For example, he states that in a study done by the U.S. Tea Association, tea sales have gone “from just under $2 billion in 1990 to just over $10 billion last year [2013]”. And why is that? It’s because the availability for tea has increased dramatically. As Ferdman says, “80 percent of U.S. households have tea in their kitchens”. And what happens in the home generally spreads to the outside world. As such, it was reported by the U.S. Tea Association that “more than half” of the nation “drinks tea on a daily basis.” (Ferdman) That is something I can definitely believe, having gone to high school with a bunch of tea drinkers.

What about Starbucks, typically known for coffee and having a shop literally on every corner in major cities? Surprisingly, Starbucks is assimilating itself to the tea culture. Recently, Starbucks has acquired Teavana, a famous high-end tea provider, and “is hoping to become a market leader for tea as much as it has been one for coffee.” (Ferdman) What about Dunkin’ Donuts, also known for their coffee? Well, here’s a twist: the company has referred to the iced tea as “one of its key products.” (Ferdman)

And what about coffee itself? Ferdman’s article also addresses this question. According to his article, the act of drinking coffee has actually been “fairly stagnant since the 1970s.” (Ferdman) If anything, the United States is more of a nation of bourbon and beer than a nation of coffee, despite what the general populace has claimed.

In conclusion, the reaction to the Boston Tea Party from prominent figures at the time had paved the way for the current Tea Culture in the United States. Despite the United States’ separation from England, they kept their love of tea that was fostered by England because of its prominent tea business and even made social revolutions based on the tea. While I am not a tea drinker by any means, I certainly understand now how this nation, from its early beginnings, has become the tea drinking nation it has become now and can certainly understand my family and friends’ fascination and appreciation for tea.

Works Cited

Carp, Benjamin.“7 Myths about the Boston Tea Party.” Journal of the American Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://allthingsliberty.com/2013/11/7-myths-boston-tea-party/>

Ferdman, Roberto A. “America Is Slowly—but Surely—becoming a Nation of Tea Drinkers.” The Washington Post 3 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/03/america-is-slowly-but-surely-becoming-a-nation-of-tea-drinkers/>

Hodge, Austin. “Does All Tea Really Come From The Same Plant? – Seven Cups.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.sevencups.com/2011/05/does-all-tea-really-come-from-the-same-plant/>

Hryniewicz-Yarbrough. “Object of Affection.” The Best American Essays 2008. Ed. Adam Gopnik. New York: Mariner, 2008. 167-175.

Klein, Christopher. “10 Things You May Not Know About the Boston Tea Party.” History.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-boston-tea-party>

Zuesse, Eric. “Final Proof The Tea Party Was Founded As A Bogus AstroTurf Movement.” Huffington Post. N.p., 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/final-proof-the-tea-party_b_4136722.html>

Ansel, Karen. “The Health Benefits of Beer from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442463947>

Works Consulted

“About Us.” Tea Party. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.teaparty.org/about-us/>

“Apparently Tea Contains More Caffeine than Coffee. Why Is It That Coffee Is Typically so Much More Stimulating than Tea? | Notes and Queries | Guardian.co.uk.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-25502,00.html>

“Debunking Boston Tea Party Myths.” History Net: Where History Comes Alive – World & US History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.historynet.com/debunking-boston-tea-party-myths.htm>

“Tea Act – American Revolution.” HISTORY.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/tea-act>

“Types of Tea – Green, Black, White, Oolong & Herbal Teas | Teavana.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. < http://www.teavana.com/tea-info/types-of-tea>

“Where Does Tea Come from? – Yahoo Answers.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111229184641AAvJ3fM>

Ballhaus, Rebecca. “A Short History of the Tea Party Movement.” WSJ Blogs – Washington Wire. N.p., 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2014/02/27/a-short-history-of-the-tea-party-movement/>

Carp, Benjamin.“7 Myths about the Boston Tea Party.” Journal of the American Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://allthingsliberty.com/2013/11/7-myths-boston-tea-party/>

Ferdman, Roberto A. “America Is Slowly—but Surely—becoming a Nation of Tea Drinkers.” The Washington Post 3 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/03/america-is-slowly-but-surely-becoming-a-nation-of-tea-drinkers/>

Hodge, Austin. “Does All Tea Really Come From The Same Plant? – Seven Cups.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.sevencups.com/2011/05/does-all-tea-really-come-from-the-same-plant/>

Hryniewicz-Yarbrough. “Object of Affection.” The Best American Essays 2008. Ed. Adam Gopnik. New York: Mariner, 2008. 167-175.

Klein, Christopher. “10 Things You May Not Know About the Boston Tea Party.” History.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-boston-tea-party>

Zuesse, Eric. “Final Proof The Tea Party Was Founded As A Bogus AstroTurf Movement.” Huffington Post. N.p., 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/final-proof-the-tea-party_b_4136722.html>

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