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I recently came across the interesting concept of smoking tea.
Yep, you read that correctly: Smoking tea. Which is to say, lighting it on fire and inhaling the resulting smoke. Turns out, we’ve even published an article on this topic in 2009, “Smoking green tea: is it safe to light up?”
I suppose I can’t be surprised. It seems that for as long as people have been smoking plants for spiritual, medicinal, or recreational purposes, they’ve been trying to find new and different things to try lighting up. So why not tea? Interestingly, from what I’ve found, the smoking of tea falls under two categories: Recreational and as a tactic to quit smoking nicotine cigarettes.
When it comes to the history and origin of smoking tea, I couldn’t find any definitive answers. Some articles said that it isn’t popular in China yet I found people on forums saying that it’s been smoked for “thousands of years.” Even a fairly recent release of green tea cigarettes led to claims of green tea being smoked in Vietnam, anywhere from for “a few years” to “a few decades.” Actual historical data was not so easily found.
Recreational Tea Smoking
The majority of descriptions I found online ranged from the effects being mild or non-existent all the way to creating some kind of very mild high. I saw some inclination toward green teas being more akin to marijuana (source 1, source 2) and black teas being more energetic and uplifting (source). The most interesting thing I came across was this article, suggesting that “consciousness becomes more sensitive” when smoking puerh tea and recommended it for people who have some experience with hallucinogenic substances. I haven’t had much luck finding personal accounts of this, but I did come across a couple mentions of the way drinking puerh can cause some changes to consciousness; so perhaps this is a continuation of the same thought process (source 1, source 2). Some mentioned that L-Theanine was the ingredient that causes this to occur, but that’s an entire separate rabbit trail to explore on another day.
Smoking Green Tea to Replace Smoking Cigarettes
The most prevalent first mention I found of smoking green tea as a tactic to quit nicotine was in 2015, when a company called “American Billy” began promoting and selling green tea cigarettes. Their website claims, “Green tea cigarettes are part of a three-step, 90-day smoking cessation method to help you quit. Following the program, may eventually ‘downgrade’ the addiction to a habit. Habits are much easier to break than addiction. If you smoke green tea, you don’t have a chemical [nicotine] working on your neuroreceptors to cause addiction (source).” Despite this claim, Time Magazine’s article on it “Green Tea Cigarettes Are Now a Thing” explained that professionals were skeptical as to the actual results when it came to kicking an addiction (source). But American Billy is still in business after six years and offers anecdotal accounts; so either it actually is beneficial or people are willing to try anything. Or some combination of the two.
Is Smoking Good For You?
An important thing for me to point out in closing is that burning anything and inhaling the smoke is not the best thing you can do for your health, as you are directly irritating your lung tissues with carbon. Healthline went into great detail in their article, “Can You Smoke Tea? (source)” My research found absolutely zero scientific studies that have been done on either the safety or benefits of smoking tea, which is why anecdotal accounts were the only resource I could use. Overall, sources tend to agree that if you really want to get the best health benefits from tea, you are much better off imbibing the old-fashioned way: By drinking it.
Final note: During the research process of this article I was discussing the topic with one of my housemates, who was quite intrigued. She smokes cigarettes and occasionally uses marijuana recreationally (it’s legal in our state of Washington) and has expressed an interest in trying smoking tea. If there is interest, when this occurs I will write a follow-up post detailing some of her descriptions of results and my observations of the process. (I will also be the one providing her with tea.)