Sources: A Handbook Of Health

The Popularity of Beverages. For some curious reason, the habit has

grown up of taking a large part of the six glasses of water that we

require daily in the form of mixtures known as beverages. These

beverages are always much more expensive than pure water; are often

quite troublesome to secure and prepare; have little, or no, food value;

are of doubtful value even in small amounts; and injurious in large

ones. Why they should ever have come into such universal use, in all

races and in all ages of the world, is one of the standing puzzles of

human nature. They practically all consist of from ninety to

ninety-eight per cent of water, the food elements that may be added to

them being in such trifling amounts as to be practically of no value.

They serve no known useful purpose in the body, save as a means of

introducing the water which they contain; and yet mankind has used them

ever since the dawn of history.

We Have no Natural Appetite for Beverages. It is a most striking fact

that, although these beverages have been drunk by the race for

centuries, we have never developed an instinct or natural appetite for

them! No child ever yet was born with an appetite or natural liking for

beer or whiskey; and very few children really like the taste of tea or

coffee the first time, although they soon learn to drink them on account

of the sugar and cream in them. Thus, nature has clearly marked them off

from all the real foods on our tables, showing that they are not

essential to either life or health; and that they are absolutely

unnecessary, and almost always harmful in childhood and during the

period of growth. If no child ever drank alcohol until he really craved

it, as he craves milk, sugar, and bread and butter, there would be no

drunkards in the world. Our other food-instincts have shown themselves

worthy to be trusted--why not trust this one, and let these beverages,

especially alcohol, absolutely alone?

Statistics from the alcoholic wards of our great hospitals show that of

those who become drunkards, nearly ninety per cent begin to drink

before they are twenty years old. Of that ninety per cent, over

two-thirds took their first drink, not because they felt any craving for

it, or even thought it would taste good, but because they saw others

doing it; or thought it would be a manly thing to do; or were afraid

that they would be laughed at if they didn't! Whatever vices and bad

habits our natural appetites, and so-called animal instincts, may lead

us into, drunkenness is not one of them.

This striking hint on the part of nature, that alcoholic beverages are

unnecessary, is fully confirmed by the overwhelming majority of hundreds

of tests which have been made in the laboratory, showing clearly that,

while these beverages may give off trifling amounts of energy in the

body, their real effects and the sole reason for their use are their

stimulating, or their discomfort-deadening (narcotic) effect. And the

more carefully we study them, the heavier we find the price that has to

be paid for any temporary relief or enjoyment which they may seem to


Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa. The weakest and most commonly used of these

beverages or amusement foods, are tea, coffee, and cocoa. These have an

agreeable taste, mildly stimulate the nervous system, and, when used in

moderation by adults, seldom do much harm. To a small percentage of

individuals, who are specially sensitive to their effects, they seem to

act as mild poison-foods, much in the same way as strawberries, cheese,

or lobsters do to others.

Tea is made from the green leaves of a shrub growing in hilly districts

in China, Japan, and Southern India. The finer and more delicately

flavored brands are from the young leaves, shoots, and flowers of the

plant; while the coarser and cheaper are from the old leaves, stalks,

and even twigs--the latter containing the most tannin, which, as we

shall see, is the most injurious element in tea.

Coffee is made from the seeds of a cherry-like berry growing upon a

shrub, or low tree, on tropical hillsides. The bulk of our supply comes

from South America, and is known as Rio coffee, from Rio Janeiro, the

port in Brazil from which most of it is shipped. That from the East

Indies is known as Java, and that from Arabia as Mocha; though these

last two are now but little more than trade-names for certain finer

varieties of coffee, no matter where grown.

Cocoa and chocolate are made from the bean-like seeds of a small tree

growing in the tropics and, in cake, or solid, form, contain

considerable amounts of fat, and usually sugar and vanilla, which have

been added to them to improve their flavor. As, however, only a

teaspoonful or so of the powdered cocoa, or chocolate, goes to make a

cupful, the actual food value of cocoa or chocolate, unless made with

milk, is not much greater than that of tea or coffee with cream and

sugar. They contain less caffein than either tea or coffee, but are

liable to clog rather than to increase the appetite for other foods.

Effects of Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa. Though the flavors of tea, coffee,

and cocoa are so different, they all depend for their effect upon a

spicy-tasting substance, called caffein from its having been first

separated out of coffee. The caffein of tea is sometimes called thein,

and that of cocoa theobromin; but they are all practically the same

substance. Part of the taste of these beverages is due to the caffein,

but the special flavor of each is given by spicy oils and other

substances which it contains. Caffein acts as a mild stimulant both to

the nervous system and brain, and to the heart; as is shown by the way

in which tea or coffee will wake us up or refresh us when tired, or, if

drunk too late at night, keep us from going to sleep. If used in large

amounts, especially if taken as a substitute for food, tea and coffee

upset the nervous system and disturb the heart, and produce an

unwholesome craving for more.

Their chief value lies in the hot water they contain, which has been

sterilized by boiling, while its heat assists the process of digestion;

and in the fact that their agreeable taste sometimes gives us an

appetite and enables us to eat more of less highly flavored foods, like

bread, crackers, potatoes, or rice, than we would without them. They

are, also, usually taken with cream, or milk, or sugar, which are real

foods and bring their fuel value up to about half that of skimmed milk.

So far as they stimulate the appetite and increase the amount of food

eaten, they are beneficial; but when taken as a substitute for real

food, they are most injurious. A cup of coffee, for instance, makes a

very poor breakfast to start the day on; for although it gives you a

comforting sense of having eaten something warm and satisfying, it

contains very little real food, and soon leaves you feeling empty and

tired; just as an engine would give out if you put a handful of shavings

into its fire-box, and expected it to do four hours' work on them.

The most disturbing effects of tea and coffee upon the digestion are due

to the tannin which they contain if boiled too long, especially in the

case of tea. This tannin, fortunately, will not dissolve in water except

by prolonged boiling or steeping; so that if tea is made by pouring

boiling water over the tea leaves and pouring it off again as soon as it

has reached the desired strength and flavor, and coffee by being just

brought to a boil and then not allowed to stand more than ten or fifteen

minutes before use, no injurious amounts of tannin will be found in

them. Tea, made by prolonged stewing on the back of the stove, owes its

bitter, puckery taste to tannin, and is better suited for tanning

leather than for putting into the human stomach.

Boys and girls up to fifteen or sixteen years of age are much better off

without tea, coffee, or cocoa; for they need no artificial stimulants to

their appetites, while at the same time their nervous systems are more

liable to injury from the harmful effects of over-stimulation. If the

beverages are taken at all, they should be taken very weak, and with

plenty of milk and cream as well as sugar.