Tea in College
By Kate Lynch
My name is Kate, and for the last three years, I have been a college student. I remain so today, and as I continue to pursue higher education, one thing has become clear to me. No, not that it is possible to survive indefinitely on granola bars and Chinese takeout (it's not), or that the best writing really happens at 2:00AM the morning that a final paper is due (it doesn't). What I have discovered is simply this; tea is really a perfect fixture in the life of a college student.
Think about it. Tea has caffeine in it. Sure, it has less than coffee, but it does have enough of the required substance to fuel a college student through a final exam without causing 'caffeine jitters' during the essay portion. There are also plenty of decaffeinated varieties of tea, such as chamomile and rooibos, great for winding down after a long day of classes. I myself couldn't go to sleep without a cup of Foxtrot, a subtle, soothing mix of peppermint and chamomile tea. Sleeping on a plastic mattress, in a tiny dorm with thin walls that shake with the sound of my neighbor's bass, a cup of this wonderful tea is certainly a nice, nurturing element to my evening.
Tea has no calories, a blessing for those who spend all four years trying to avoid 'the freshman fifteen' and the large amount of empty calories that are quickly ingested with many sodas, sugary fruit juices, energy drinks, and coffee with fixings. Tea also does not have harmful chemicals or unsavory preservatives, making it good and good for you.
Which brings me to the subject of taste. Different varieties of tea have very different tastes. Some are very mild, like many white teas and some varieties of young greens. Others have a nutty or smoky taste, like the (in)famous Lapsang Souchong, or the less-harsh but still classy oolongs. There is the sweet and fruity taste that many herbal teas have, great for satisfying a sweet tooth while avoiding unhealthy snacks. I personally turn to Adagio's Fruit Medley for a dessert treat. And of course, there are all of the black varieties, the Ceylon teas. Classic and reliable, this is the sort of beverage you can drink in the morning to wake up or at dinner to get you through an evening of homework, but still allow you to get a naturally good night's sleep a couple of hours later.
It also helps that tea is more involved and hands-on than many other beverages. Even a teabag nabbed from the cafeteria and steeped in a Styrofoam cup is still something that you do yourself. Many of my friends told me during the course of my research for this article that they preferred making their own tea in their rooms to grabbing a cup of burned coffee that's been sitting in its urn in the cafeteria for hours. At least with tea you make yourself, they reasoned, you have a lot more control over the beverage, and it's definitely fresh when you drink it.
That being said, tea gets something of an odd rap in college. For many students, coffee is considered a vital bodily fluid. However, this often has nothing to do with taste. I have witnessed friends who gag at the smell of 'coffee breath' chug a 40 oz. thermos to get through an exam. In these situations, coffee is ingested purely as a source of caffeine. While tea can help in this area, the fact that it has less caffeine means that it is consumed more for its other attributes, such as taste, health benefits, and enjoyment.
Many of the students I discussed this subject with also explained to me that tea has earned a reputation for being relaxing, something you curl up with on a rainy afternoon or after a tough day of schoolwork. It is also one of the only things that can make you feel better when you get that first inevitable cold at school. Tea is warm and soothing on a sore throat, acts as a fluid to break down nasal congestion, and works as an overall source of comfort when you're under the weather and far from home. A student might start the day at a frantic pace, guzzling coffee to make it through morning classes, but she will end the day with a soothing cup of Green Pekoe as she reviews her completed assignments. Tea may never be treated as the solution to a night of cramming, but it will always be considered the icon of rest and rejuvenation, something that all college students need as much of as they can get during their fast-paced, exciting college educations.