Tea party

The absurd reason tea breaks for women were once seen as dangerous

Women drink tea in Galway. Wikimedia

While tea is viewed by modern society as perhaps little more than a lighter alternative to coffee, it was once viewed as reckless and a catalyst for a feminist revolution. In 19th century Ireland, “Drinking tea was thought to threaten traditional ways,” wrote Helen O’Connell of Durham University in a paper exploring the stigma surrounding tea in that era. Through a combination of pamphlets, O’Connell discovered that a tea break was seen as a way for women to ignore their domestic duties, which could then lead to them being engaged in and discussing politics. One pamphlet portrayed tea drinking as a lavish activity that had the potential to become addictive and was therefore irresponsible. In addition, the Irish reformers tried to discourage women from consuming the revolutionary drink by trying to connect it to slavery. They made the ridiculous claim that adding sugar to tea was equivalent to drinking the blood of slaves who worked on the sugar plantations. While the crusade against a feminist revolution via tea drinking did not succeed, O’Connell compares it to how some of our contemporary views on food may “appear ludicrous in times to come,” and compared it to the way we obsess over the concept of organic food or gluten.

Read the full story at NPR.

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