At the Art of Manliness, there was an excellent article on the appreciation of tea. Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.
“There are those who love to get dirty and fix things. They drink coffee at dawn, beer after work. And those who stay clean, just appreciate things. At breakfast they have milk and juice at night. There are those who do both, they drink tea.” –Gary Snyder
When you think of tea parties, you’re probably getting an image of a group of women sitting around a table drinking out of delicate tea cups while eating fancy cookies. There’s probably a doily somewhere in the picture too.
For most Americans, this is what comes to mind. How could this be? After all, the American Revolution began with one of the manliest tea parties in history.
Despite the notion that “real men don’t drink tea,” the drink is readily consumed by both sexes around the world, making it second only to water in popularity. Tea not only has a long and surprisingly manly history, but its health benefits continue to make it a wise (and tasty) choice for modern men.
If you’ve yet to really give tea a chance, today I’ll briefly go through its history, offer a rundown of its salutary effects, and then present a primer on tea types and how best to consume and make this storied drink.
Tea originates in Asia where tea plants naturally grow. Men in China, Japan, and India have been brewing tea for thousands of years while reaping its health benefits and also enjoying it as a tasty beverage.
In Japan, tea became a major part of samurai culture with the development of the Chanoyu tea ceremony, or “way of the tea.” In the 16th century, warlord Oda Nobunaga kept several tea masters in his company and gave valuable tea items to his generals as rewards. His successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, would use the tea ceremony to discuss matters of state and made it a key part of his administration.
The Dutch merchant and adventurer, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, described the Chanoyu in his account of his travels through Asia:
“The earthen cups which they drinke it in, they esteeme of them as much as we doe of Diamants, Rubies and other precious stones, and they are not esteemed for their newness, but for their oldness, and for that they are made by a good workman.”
Linschoten ended up playing a large part in tea’s worldwide domination. He spent five years working for the Archbishop of Goa to steal Portugal’s secret trade routes to the East. This theft broke a major trade monopoly and made goods like tea more available to other European traders.
Tea quickly rose in popularity once it was introduced in Europe — even among most military men. In World War II, the British even invented a built-in kettle for armored vehicles so their tank crews wouldn’t have to expose themselves outdoors whenever they wanted a cup of tea. As an interesting aside, during the Victorian era, mustaches were extremely popular and the British military required its soldiers to sport them for many years. This led to the invention of the Mustache Cup, which allowed mustachioed men to drink hot tea without the steam melting their mustache wax or staining their facial hair.
Because tea was so popular in Britain, it was only natural that the drink was also popular in the American colonies. That is, until the British passed the Tea Act of 1773, which gave the East India Company a monopoly on American tea trade. Seeing this as the latest example of the British violating their rights, the Sons of Liberty dumped $18,000 worth of tea into the Boston Harbor. This set off the series of events that would lead to the American Revolution…as well as the decrease in tea’s popularity in the U.S.
Unfortunately, that means many American men have been missing out on the benefits of tea for centuries.