The term teetotaler (also spelled ‘tea totaler’) came into vogue in the 1830’s in England when members of the Preston Temperance Society initiated a pledge to abstain from all intoxicating beverages, “except as medicine.” The increase in the drinking of alcohol in England was partly due to the growth of London and concerns about all manner of health problems, including the quality of the drinking water, which prompted Parliament in 1830 to deregulate the beer and cider trades. What followed was a proliferation of alehouses that were set up without the consent of magistrates. The reactionary formation of temperance societies followed shortly thereafter.

There is some debate over who first used the term teetotal, if it was an invented word munsch_chai_white_russianor a stutter, or whether its intent was just used to signify the marking of a “T” in the recording of a temperance pledge. Richard Turner, the person who is frequently credited with first using teetotal, was so proud of his linguistic place in history that he had it engraved on his tombstone, “Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Richard Turner author of the word teetotal as applied to abstinence from all intoxicating liquors, who departed this life on the 27th of October, 1846, age 56 years.” It should be noted that at the time, the national average life expectancy in England was 41 and in London the cause of death for about a third of the population was from tuberculosis. It would seem the teetotaling Mr. Turner did quite well to make it to 56 years.

Often the impression of today’s tea lovers is that they are also teetotalers due to religious, health or social reasons and that they do not typically consume alcoholic beverages. (They’ve obviously never observed tea lovers attending a Tea Expo in Las Vegas!) In fact, the same educated tasting palate that enjoys and discerns the differences in a variety of teas will also be useful in enjoying the flavor differences in tasting wines, microbrew beers and spirits.

One way to create a bridge between tea lovers and alcoholic beverages is to incorporate teas into tasting events or dinner parties where tea is an important ingredient in wines or cocktails. Infusing green tea in Sake adds the prefect grassy note, jasmine tea to white wines makes an everyday bottle of wine exceptional, and the use of tea infusions in cocktails is only limited by one’s creativity and blending skills.

One of our holiday favorites that is very simple to make is a Chai White Russian:

– Infuse a bottle* of vodka in 4-5 tablespoons of preferred chai blend depending on strength of tea flavor desired. Ideally, let the tea soak in the vodka over night, or a minimum of 2-3 hours.
– Prepare a mix of 6 oz. of the chai infused vodka with 6 oz. of Bailey’s Irish Cream liquor and 10-12 oz. of whole milk.
– Pour over ice to serve. Depending on glass size, this will make 4-6 cocktails.

*For individual drinks a smaller quantity of vodka can be infused with the tea rather than an entire bottle.

And for true teetotalers, many of the same methods of infusing alcoholic beverages can be used for nonalcoholic drinks as well. Happy Holidays!

 Image courtesy of the author.