For Your Consideration: Drinking Just Way Too Much Tea

for your consideration

Welcome to For Your Consideration, a new series about things we love and love to do — and we’d like to give you permission to embrace your authentic self and love them too.


Most of us can probably agree that tea is good (and if you don’t, this probably isn’t the For Your Consideration for you, and also, you’re wrong). It comforts and heals. It warms or cools. It energizes or relaxes. What would we do without tea! I, surely, would perish. Because there are days where I settle in for bed with a warm cup of chamomile tea and think “oh shit, is this my seventh cup of tea today?”

And folks, sometimes it is. Health experts are divided on whether 5-10 cups of tea is advisable. Just kidding. I have no idea what constitutes an appropriate amount of tea health-wise, because I did not look into the matter, and I shall not, and I will reject any attempts to link me to evidence that the benefits of tea are regressive. Sometimes, you just gotta down an unusual amount of tea because, like face masks and ABBA songs, it’s one of the cheapest, easiest, fleeting but immediate forms of relief from crushing existential dread. Am I saying I self-medicate with tea? Absolutely.

My sister, father, and I are always chasing the perfect cup of masala chai. In India, we drank several cups of perfect masala chai daily, inside small tea houses where a man stands over a bubbling vat of milky, sugary chai and portions it out in clay or styrofoam cups. You can’t get it that way in the States. Even the most authentic Indian restaurants that claim to offer Indian-style masala chai often can’t pass our very simple test: Is the milk boiled with the tea or added after? If it’s the latter, we pass.

(Chai, as a reminder, means tea, so please retire the phrase “chai tea.”)

(On that note, I would like to go on the record as actually liking chai lattes from Starbucks, even though they are a monstrous derivative of masala chai and are barely tea! But I drank a lot of them while writing papers in college, and you know what, sometimes liquid dessert that tastes like it was made in a lab actually hits the spot. I said what I said!)

It’s customary to have safely guarded family chai recipes in India. In my family, there are several, my sister, father, and I each adding our own signature touches to my father’s mother’s very simple base recipe, which she serves to us in mismatched mugs every time we’re home even if we politely decline.

I make my chai with Lipton tea bags, milk, brown sugar, flecks of vanilla bean stripped from their pod, whole star anise that pinwheel in the tea as it cooks, cracked cardamom pods, a whole lot of sliced fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, trace amounts of black pepper. It makes the whole apartment smell divine. Probably the best part of dating me is my homebrewed masala chai.

Do you ever think about Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers rattling off a tongue twister of tea types on a loop?

An Unofficial Guide to What Tea to Drink Based On Your Symptoms That Is 100% Made Up by Me and Not Endorsed by Any Medical Professionals Whatsoever:

Headache – one bag of lemon ginger tea and one bag of ginger tea
Stomachache – brew cardamom pods and fresh ginger with any loose leaf tea
Hangover – iced black tea with fresh ginger juice and lemon
Stress – lavender tea
Distracted – peppermint tea (optional: mix it with green tea)
Thinking About Texting Your Ex – white tea
Heartburn – chamomile tea
Heartbreak – rosemary tea
Loneliness – matcha
Thinking About Texting Your Ex Again – scalding hot tea
Uncontrollable Crying – a large iced McDonald’s sweet tea

Yes, I was obviously the type of gay kid who had tea parties with her imaginary friends!!! DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO ASK?

I quit caffeine cold turkey this summer for an unimpressive amount of time — maybe two weeks? I did so at the behest of my acupuncturist, who I’d started seeing because I was only sleeping four-ish hours a night, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure she specifically said don’t quit cold turkey. “Drink less coffee, more tea” was her directive. I quit cold turkey just to prove I could do it, the same ambitious-to-the-point-of-self-destructive streak that led me to believe I could read 150 books in one year and then made me feel like a failure when I couldn’t achieve that TRULY PREPOSTEROUS goal.

As with the reading goal, quitting caffeine backfired spectacularly. Not only did I follow up those two weeks drinking an absurd amount of coffee, but caffeine’s effect on me multiplied exponentially. It doesn’t cause anxiety per se, but if I’m feeling even the tiniest bit anxious before consuming it, caffeine acts like lighter fluid to those little licks of nervous fire.

Drink less coffee, more tea. Now that’s something I can do. More tea, more tea, more tea. It isn’t just the drinking part that satisfies; it’s the whole process. Moving to the kitchen to click on the kettle briefly vitally breaks up the stasis it’s easy to fall into when writing. Believe it or not, I’ve tea-drank my way out of writer’s block.

I’ve tea-drank my way out of stress, restlessness, fatigue, melancholy, dissociation. How many cups of tea does it take to get to the center of what’s really wrong? A lot.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 141 articles for us.

43 Comments

  1. I’ve never felt a grater kinship to an article than I do now. I, too, recently tried to withdraw from caffeine in tea and pre-workout drinks only to fall off the wagon shortly thereafter into some seriously anxiety-driven intrusive thoughts that had me questioning just how dependent my mental health is on copious amounts of tea. I don’t really do Chamomile or Jasmine, as I’m not about the taste, but I’ve taught myself to get over it because as someone who also is definitely not a medical professional, I’ll drink them for the benefits I know they can provide.

  2. I DEEPLY relate to this. If my throat’s not feeling wonky I will have a cup of coffee in the morning with breakfast, but once I get to work I just drink tea all fuckin day long.

    Irish breakfast, rooibos (or orange rooibos when I find it), and peppermint are my faaaavorites.

    Also, on my to-do list is to look up either a dupe of the tea they give you at Aveda salon that’s cheaper than what they sell there, or ingredients so I can experiment with a recipe. I think it’s just mint and anise, but it could have more stuff in it, idk.

    • From the Aveda website…

      Ingredients: Licorice Root , Peppermint Leaf , Sweet Fennel , Basil
      Please be aware that ingredient lists may change or vary from time to time. Please refer to the ingredient list on the product package you receive for the most up to date list of ingredients.

      Sounds soothing and delicious and of course I had to laugh at their disclaimer.

  3. ….I put in my third cup of tea of the day in the microwave and then opened autostraddle to read as I waited for it to heat up. So that’s fine

    Caffeine affects me the same way when I’m anxious and I already treated myself to a latte on the way in because it was going to be a hard day, so no more coffee for me, but I just want to be constantly sipping on something warm…

  4. Oh MAN, I want the home brewed chai!
    Didn’t even occur to me to try to make it myself… An air freshener for my tiny studio apartment that I can drink? Count me IN

    Mainly I just drink Earl Grey all day, but I swear by matcha milk if you wanna feel sleepy n cosy, or mint tea if your stomach hurts.

  5. I don’t think I have ever related to an Autostraddle article more (I say, on my third large mug of tea today…)
    One summer in college I worked in an office that only had a Keurig and no separate hot-water hookup so I brought my electric kettle to work and put it on my desk and I’d fill it up at the water cooler and just DARE anyone to judge me.
    (An appalling amount of the money from that job – and every other job I’ve had – went to David’s Tea. I regret nothing.)

    Last fall my electric teakettle broke the day I got back to my apartment after Thanksgiving and let me tell you the 3 days I spent waiting for the replacement to arrive were a STRUGGLE. I ended up heating up water on the stove in the little metal cup I use to foam milk for lattes and then pouring it over tea in a mug. But I only burned my fingers once!

  6. There’s no such thing as too much tea. Without tea what would you offer to someone who came to fix something? Or when you came home late and needed to talk through what just happened, or when you wake up, or when you go somewhere new, or someone new comes to you, or if you need a pick me up after a crappy day, or you need to wind down, or you’re having trouble concentrating, or you need to celebrate, or commiserate, or warm up, or feel less lonely. Without tea I guess you’d just stay lonely and cold.

    • As someone who’s been living in the UK for 3.5 years my instant reaction to this title was “what does this mean ‘too much tea’?!”

      Kayla thank you for your chai recipe I can’t wait to try it out ❤️ I love cardamom and star anise

  7. I related to this SO HARD. Especially the bit on goal setting and caffeine.

    But I also laughed out loud when I read “oh shit, is this my seventh cup of tea today?” because I was like, “Who drinks chamomile at 10am? Everyone has their seventh up by like… 10:30 at the latest, RIGHT?”

    I didn’t have as much as usual today though because I bought inferior tea (the places that sell the good ones are a long bus ride away that I just can’t justify right now) but if I make chai out of it…. SAVED! Thanks for planting that idea.

    Though, I am definitely not bothered by chai tea or naan bread. Languages are constantly taking bits from other languages when the situation suits them and sometimes if you speak both languages you see how the taking has led to something ridiculous…

  8. …I’m the person who is all weird about checking if it’s fresh water and that it hasn’t been reboiled (bc oxygen/ taste), and who responds to every crisis ( like earthquake/ fire/ I’ve just woken up) with a cup of tea so I appreciate this post immensely.

  9. Yep! I used to think that I was only drinking six or more cups of tea a day because my old apartment’s heating didn’t reach beyond a yard or so in front of the heater, but now I know that six cups is simply my average. I moved out of that apartment over three years ago.

  10. I was just wondering if I’m drinking too much tea at my current temp placement! The break room is stocked with boxes of 5 different types of tea and I’ve been guzzling green tea and I Love Lemon.

    Making / drinking tea is my go-to grounding technique – especially if my ptsd gets triggered at work or away from home. It engages all the senses. And drinking warm tea is like giving your insides a hug.

    I brewed and drank soooo many cups of ginger peach green tea the (otherwise wretched) day I spent trying to enroll in Obamacare for the first time – it’s pretty much the thing that kept me sane.

    I didn’t really grow up with tea – my mom liked to have a cup of tea for dessert when I was growing up – but I don’t feel like it was a big part of the culture in the 1970s and 80s Midwest.

    I discovered tea as a Thing when I spent 6 months in England in college.

    One of my English friends pointed out that on American tv shows, all problems were solved with a hug while on British tv, all problems were solved with a cup of tea. And really, many, many problems can be solved with a cup of tea.

  11. That homebrew chai sounds lovely, similar to what my grandmother makes, but without the dairy.

    In a related note, I’ve read how mullein tea is good for the lungs and has a relaxing aroma, while Kanna based teas are good for relaxing and I think helps with dreams a little?

  12. Here I was thinking I was weird to need the right tea for a particular occasion/mood/ailment/time of day, and then this comes along and makes me feel so seen!

    I have extremely limited kitchen storage and yet I’ve devoted an entire drawer that could be used for spatulas or whisks or something to keeping large quantities of tea on hand just in case.

    Also I’d like to make the argument that tea is a far superior drink to coffee in an office or any setting where people closely interact – we’ve all known that professor/coworker/whatever with terrible coffee breath, but never once have I heard someone complain about tea breath…just saying…

  13. After a year and a half of living with me my housemates now put the kettle on for me when they hear me up and moving about in the morning, because they know my routine of three-cups-in-the-morning so well.
    This article makes me feel SO seen. And I now also would really like to start making chai again because goodness the homemade stuff is good.

  14. Kayla, can we have tea and hang out please?
    “Sometimes, you just gotta down an unusual amount of tea because, like face masks and ABBA songs, it’s one of the cheapest, easiest, fleeting but immediate forms of relief from crushing existential dread.”

  15. And that moment in the evening when someone asks : ‘who’ll take tea?’ and distributes warm cups of chamomille and everyone just sits cozily together and sips and doesn’t have to say much.

  16. I feel. So. Seen. Ours was the tea cabin at A-camp and I have tea drawers at home and another one at work and honestly I might have a problem? But I regret nothing. I address all physical ailments with medication and ginger tea. I pay attention to the seasonal harvests and spend too much money at my favorite tea shop (because also omg the food). I justify it as still being cheaper than any other indulgence or addiction and it really is how I center and soothe myself.

  17. So I, too, have reached that “coffee amplifies my anxiety” place and you, Kayla, have officially won me over to this idea of drinking lots and lots of tea. But like, there are a lot of options! I love your suggestions for flavors above, but are there Good Tea Brands and Meh Tea Brands? Help!

    • Lots of people start with DavidsTea! Depending on where you are, they have physical stores so you can smell/look at the tea before buying and buy it in smaller quantities. Plus the salespeople are generally helpful and friendly without being pushy. Online, I like Simpson & Vail as an introduction to loose leaf tea because it’s pretty affordable and has a good variety of tasty blends.

  18. I used to be a total teas snob. As in Camelia Sinensis and nothing else qualified as Tea.

    My friends and I would order tea from all over the world to get our fix of different gardens, altitudes, first flushes… we were surely insufferable but what a joy it was ! The best part was receiving our stash and then getting together to divvy it up in baggies while sitting in a coffee shop. Need I mention that tea leaves can look illegal in a certain light ! Good times.

  19. Excuse me, who allowed you into my brain?? That is MOST impolite.

    However, may I add an Irish Edition of the Unofficial Guide OF What Tea To Drink:

    Headache – Black tea, strong, lots of milk and one sugar
    Stomachache – Black tea, strong, a little milk and one sugar
    Hangover – Black tea, very strong, lots of milk and a lot of sugar. Ideally make a full pot and bring it back to bed with a jug of milk and packet of sugar.
    Stress – Black tea, strong, lots of milk and sugar. Best to make the full pot here.
    Distracted – Black tea, strong, lots of milk and sugar. A new mug every ~15 minutes to be promptly forgotten about and left in a trail around the house.
    Thinking About Texting Your Ex – Black tea, strong, lots of milk and sugar. A pot, ’cause you’ll be needing a friend present to take your phone off you.
    Heartburn – Black tea, strong, lots and lots of milk. And some sugar.
    Heartbreak – Black tea, strong. Brewed in a huge pot with cardamom seeds by your BFF and/or mum. Drunk from your favourite mug, curled up in a sad pile on your sofa next to your BFF and/or mum.
    Loneliness – Black tea, strong, lots of milk and sugar. Drunk while swiping through Tinder and feeling every drop of optimism drain from your body.
    Thinking About Texting Your Ex Again Black tea, strong, lots of milk and sugar and just drop your phone into the teapot okay.
    Uncontrollable Crying – Black tea, strong, lots of milk. Extra sugar this time, to cover the saltiness. Ideally brewed in a huge pot and drunk while curled up in a ball of blankets with a baffled-yet-concerned dog or cat.

  20. A few days before the end of 2018 I realized that I truly am my happiest self the days I drink (at least) 3 cups of tea. And it truly isn’t just the drinking. Is the warmth of the cup in my hands, the smell, the vapor warming up my face and -yes- the taste. When I can pause everything I’m doing and truly enjoy a nice cup of tea is kind of a mindfulness moment. It brings me back to the present, grounds me, makes my worries dissolve.

  21. This article perfectly expresses all my feelings about tea that I have been reiterating to myself daily for the last decade. How do people who don’t drink tea know that their evening is over? They just … get ready for bed? Absurd.

  22. Kayla. Kayla, you have inspired me, I need to drink more tea. When you described your specialty tea I just realized how severely my tea game is lacking and that is my goal this year, to drink more tea not just more tea but good ass tea! thank you

    side note: i went to honeygroove two years ago and had a sip of the best tea of my life, i found them on instagram maybe six months later? theyve sent me a coupon but i cant find their store and honestly i dont know if my heart will ever be the same until i figure out how to get tea from them

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