Why Won't Americans Drink Tea?
Every day we Yanks wake up, brush our teeth with gunpowder, slam a pot of black bean anxiety juice and then head out West to toss around the ol’ pigskin with Uncle Sam. But why do we stay faithful to our cuppa joe instead of embracing the leafy potion of our soccer-loving forebears? Sure, we forego basically everything the rest of the world embraces -- the metric system, footie, healthcare -- but why have we clung to coffee when every other country prefers tea? The answer lies mostly in our incredible toxic masculinity.
As far back as 1757 (before America even was America), social critic William Hogarth noted that “Tea is not considered manly in the US.” According to Dr. Caroline Frank of Brown University, Lipton had to market iced tea in America specifically to target male audiences. Which makes absolutely no sense; hot tea is clearly the more dangerous and, therefore, manly tea. Iced tea can’t even hurt me! It’s a soothing tea, not fit for the harsh realities of American life.
Now some of you are probably checking your calendars and noticing 1757 was a long time ago, and gender roles were completely different back then. But as recently as the 1950’s tea was considered a beverage for upper-class women’s get-togethers-- the traditional tea party setting. It was referred to at the time as “Wimp Juice,” which is always how it is referred to by me, forevermore. Why say “tea” when I can say “Wimp Juice?”
“I don’t want anything caffeinated do you have any Peppermint Wimp Juice? Oh, do you serve Sweet Wimp Juice? I’ll take that then- one Sweet Wimp Juice.”
Of course, it’s a bit hyperbolic to say that loving trucks and misogyny is the only reason Americans love tea. Surely there were those whole tea parties in Boston and Charleston, right? And that’s a good point- tea consumption in America did plummet after the Townshend Act and Tea Act imposed huge taxes on tea in the British colonies. But what’s also true is those acts were designed to tax things that Britain thought the colonies would only get from Britain.
Even then, America was averse to growing their own leaf because it wasn’t popular enough to pay the bills. Sure, we could import it from China, but according to Dr. Frank, Americans at that time were worried about Chinese imports having smallpox. Hard to imagine Americans imposing hardship on themselves because of fear of Chinese imports, I know. So tea was ripe for taxing because Americans were too xenophobic to get it from anywhere but Britain and too greedy to grow any themselves. (I gotta admit- that does sound like us.)
Maybe someday we can shed our tough exteriors and embrace the warm, mellow side of us that wants to curl up with a good book and while away the hours sipping the good grey earl as the good Captain does:
But for now, tea remains abysmally unpopular in America, and coffee maintains its stalwart, stoic, manly position atop the hot beverage food chain. Some think change is coming- in 2017, a company named Ekon Tea claimed to have finally made “tea for men.” But to me, it just smells like a hot pot of boiling Wimp Juice.
Top Image: StockSnap/Pixabay