This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham
Beef tea sounds like a strange concept, but it’s been part of human health since the 18th century. The first recipes required actual beef, but subsequent recipes allowed for other meats, like lamb or chicken. The tea was occasionally served with vegetables, like a soup, as well.
Beef tea was believed to have many beneficial properties for those who consumed it. For those on a liquid diet, the tea represented some variety from the usual clear liquids one must consume. It is also an alternative to hydration, where the person may not be able to keep clear water down. It is a warm beverage as well, which makes it beneficial to those who live in climates with extreme conditions. Beef tea was also believed to help with a weakened digestion. It was classified as a stimulant for the appetite, and a general “cure for what ails you.”
In 1865, the New York Times published a scathing article calling out beef tea as a waste of meat. The article claimed that one London hospital would waste up to 62,000 pounds of beef each year in prepping the drink for patients. It also cited the growing butcher’s bill as further evidence of the wasteful nature of beef tea.
Beef tea was also popular throughout World War I as trench food. There was a running gag that a “rat-a-vaun” (a rat run over by a van) was the best food a soldier could ask for, but there is ample evidence that they were fed protein in the form of beef tea and potato pie.
About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Twitter page.