Sunday, August 12, 2012

Not My Cup of Tea: Archeologists Find 900-Year-Old Cups of Tea

Archeologists have discovered that Native Americans enjoyed a nice cup of vomit-inducing tea almost a thousand years ago!

Ancient clay mugs were recently uncovered in the ancient Native American settlement of Cahokia, outside of modern day St. Louis, Missouri. Scientific tests performed on the residue left in the cups concludes that the people of the region enjoyed partaking in a tea-drinking purification ceremony. The tea used was made from the shrub Ilex vomitoria, a species of holly and was consumed from ornate ceremonial cups.

Interestingly, the shrub is not native to the region, which means that the Native Americans must have conducted  trade with other tribes further south to obtain the leaves and berries to make the concoction. The Yaupon holly shrub once grew approximately 250 miles to the south of Cahokia.

The leaves of the shrub make a good tea—but can induce vomiting if consumed in large amounts, hence the name. The tea brewed from the leaves also contains high amounts of natural caffeine, which would have given people consuming the drink vast amounts of energy to dance and sing during the intense purification ceremonies, which would have lasted from sunset to sunrise.

The ancient settlement of Cahokia sprang up on the banks of the Mississippi River and once boasted over 15,000 inhabitants, making it the largest Native American settlement north of Mexico at one point in history.

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