On a normal day – that is, a day when I’m working at home, or can finish my errands in short order – I consume between 24 and 72 ounces of tea. And often more.
I generally start the day with a Taiwan pouchong prepared in what I refer to as modified gongfu style: tea steeped successively in a clay pot, with the first three steepings decanted into a 24-ounce teapot. This is repeated at least once. In the afternoon I go through a couple of potsful of tea in my 38-ounce teapot. I might have white or green or black tea, or one potful of each. In summer, the hot tea is often replaced by a couple of quarts of iced tea.
And that doesn’t include any teas I happen to be sampling for review.
I’ve been drinking this much tea every day for more years than I care to disclose; let’s just say a long time. So when I miss having my tea, I really feel the loss. Without my tea I tend to get cranky and tired. Sometimes I get a headache.
Tea professionals and other tea fanatics that I know – people who tend to drink a lot of tea – have also reported this kind of response. But there seems to be some dispute about why it happens.
Some claim that we’re addicted to caffeine. That’s certainly possible, and a few of the symptoms of tea deprivation do mimic those of substance withdrawal. I’m not completely convinced, however, because L-theanine, the caffeine-like substance found in tea, does not have quite the same chemical makeup as true caffeine, so it does not necessarily have the same effect on the human body. While caffeine, an alkaloid, is straightforwardly a stimulant, L-theanine, an amino acid, can act as both a stimulant and a calmative: If I drink a cup of tea when I’m under stress it not only calms me down, it also seems to provide the mental clarity I need to cope with the stressful situation itself. And although it may exist, I have not seen any convincing evidence that L-theanine is in fact addictive. (I want to state clearly that I’m neither a scientist nor a physician; these are anecdotal comments based on my own experience. If you want more information about caffeine and L-theanine, I encourage you to research this on your own.)
I’m more inclined to hold with another theory: dehydration. In this study, participants displayed some of the same symptoms I experienced when I didn’t have my tea. It’s my observation that when tea drinkers don’t have access to tea, we often don’t drink anything in its place – or at least not in the same quantity that we’re used to with our tea. Considering that the average adult’s body weight is comprised of about two-thirds water, we tend to be sensitive to any shortfall of liquid intake.
Then again, perhaps it’s part addiction, part dehydration, and part habit. Whatever it is, I don’t like it, and from now on I’m going to make the effort to have some portable tea – either a travel mug of hot tea or a bottle of chilled tea – with me whenever I’m on the run.