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Real Men Do Drink Tea

-- adapted from an essay by Robert K Henderson

For a nation whose birth cry was a costumed act of vandalism protesting the price of tea, American men are strangely ambivalent on the beverage today. While working-class guys in China, India, Japan, the U.K. and Australia quaff tea of various colors by the thermosful, American men may write it off as wimp juice. It’s an historical riddle, really. The mere suggestion that tea might be unmanly would have prompted those paint-smeared, buckskin-clad Bostonians of yesteryear to heave the skeptic into the harbor along with the chests of top-grade pekoe. But many of their suit-and-tie-wearing male descendants fear the stuff. How did men fall so far?

Time was, men were men, and men drank tea (when they weren’t launching it into the bay, that is). The mountain men of the Hudson Bay and Northwest Companies so desperately relied on tea that they actually seeded the West with the Labrador tea plant, whose leaves they used to stretch or replace dwindling stores of black tea. Rugged outdoorsmen, known to go a year between trips to town, collapsed in a quivering mass of jelly if a tea bog were more than a day’s schlep away. And hold onto your boxers, brothers: when we say Labrador, we’re not just talking tea, but herb tea. It wasn’t only mountain men sipping non-tea plants; macho city patriots, unable to stomach supporting the British East India Company, turned to steeping common garden or wild plants so they could thumb their noses at the enemy.

Yet somehow, somewhere, between Lewis and Clark and the Civil War, American guys jumped off the tea wagon and have been chumps ever since. For the man of action, tea – herb or otherwise, beats the combat boots off coffee. All you need is reasonably tasty organic matter and boiling water. Plus, tea has the advantage of extreme portability. Given a fistful of decent leaves and a heat source, a guy can brew the same cup of Darjeeling or peppermint tea at base camp on Mount Everest (before he succumbs to hypothermia) that he enjoys in his kitchen at home.

Logic, however, is probably beside the point of the tea-coffee controversy. Thanks to advertising, the genderization of tea has been entrenched in our culture. This is ultimately an emotional issue, turning less on what men think than how they feel about it. Given that the words “I feel” are more threatening than a flowered tea cozy to some men, it has taken a while for American men to begin rediscovering tea.

Yet, the effects of tea and “taking tea” on one’s feeling, thinking, and being are undeniable. There is a certain “tea sense” which develops in the regular drinker, a Pavlovian reaction to the aromatic swirl of tea in the cup. As long as tea is on, they’re all right. You say my girlfriend just ran off with my DVD collection? Fire up the kettle! A splash of hot water restores equilibrium to an unpredictable world.

The re-hinging power of tea is real, and real men respect it. Royal Air Force pilots blasted enemy fighters out of the North African sky for hours on end. At the first lull, the Brits would land their Spitfires abruptly, leap onto the sand, and pour a hasty cup of strong tea. The twentysomething flyers called each other “old man” and chatted like businessmen on an evening train. But not for long. Soon, yet another squadron of Messerschmitts would come snarling low over the dunes. Exhausted, grimy, and hungry, the RAF men dumped the lees of their cuppas in the dust and, with a quiet “Tally ho,” roared off to defy death again.

Yes, real men drink tea.


On a lighter note, some blenders are developing teas aimed at the male market. Maple Bacon Tea and Beer Tea have escaped the imagination and become a reality.

(I'm sorry, but ManTeas + T-Sacs = morning coffee snorted on keyboard)

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Tea, Health, and Weight Control February 7, 2011 10:44 PM former member
WEB STORE -- Shop and support your group! February 7, 2011 10:36 PM former member
Real Men Do Drink Tea June 16, 2012 11:05 AM former member
How We Got Our Start March 21, 2010 8:43 PM former member
Why Tea? Why Now? February 28, 2010 8:28 PM former member
The Opportunity of Tea, Beyond the Cup January 27, 2010 5:24 PM former member
Dax's Tea Group Philosophy May 8, 2010 6:02 PM former member
About San Antonio Tea & Herb Enthusiasts May 4, 2013 1:55 PM former member

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