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Friday, July 24, 2009

Pictorial Tea Tour .................... JOHN WESLEY (c.1748)

John Wesley
The National Portrait Gallery, London

Despite the immense popularity of tea, many members of the Temperance Movement condemned tea along with alcohol. John Wesley, the great preacher and founder of the Methodist movement, spoke about tea in the same terms as he did other strong drink because of its "stimulant qualities", calling it harmful to the body and soul. He actually argued for complete abstinence from tea, on the grounds that it gave rise to 'numberless disorders, particularly those of a nervous kind'. He cited the example of himself, claiming that tea drinking had caused in him a 'Paralytic disorder', which had cleared up since he began to abstain from the beverage.

Wesley urged that the money previously spent by an individual on tea should instead be given to the poor and that as an alternative, hot infusions could be made from English herbs including sage or mint. His argument was thorough, and he even touched on how one ought to deal with the awkward situation of having to refuse an offered cup of tea.

His well-known 1748 tract, A Letter to a Friend Concerning Tea, emphasizes the religious importance of self-denial that was a central tenet of early Methodism, but in fact later in his life, Wesley went back to tea drinking! Cheeky bugger.

(Purchase the John Wesley print here)

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