As the United States prepares to honor its Veterans this November 11, it is interesting to note the role of tea and coffee as traditional staples for troops both stateside and overseas during times of training, deployment, and conflict.
Although nutritional requirements, food preferences, available packaging, and many other changes have taken place since General George Washington marched the Continental Army, the value of hot drinks such as coffee and tea have remained at the top of the list - increasing military members’ welfare and morale in all endeavors.
The U.S. Department of Defense website states that the “military makes every effort to get coffee to the troops. During the Civil War, getting a hot cup of coffee was a real morale booster. Young William McKinley delivered hot coffee to his unit under fire at the battle of Antietam, Maryland — which he noted as he rose in politics, eventually being elected U.S. president in 1896.” In addition, during the civil war, “every break in a march, the troops would build a fire, heat water and use their musket butts to crush the beans. They would dump them in the water, and let it steep.”
World War I again brought this hot-beverage morale boost to the forefront, but in this case tea took a more active role. According to documents from the National Army Museum, “By the First World War (1914-18), Army food was basic, but filling. Each soldier could expect around 4,000 calories a day, with tinned rations and hard biscuits staples once again. But their diet also included vegetables, bread and jam, and boiled plum puddings. This was all washed down by copious amounts of tea.”
Tea held a prominent place in World War II as well. According to the Boston Tea Party Ship website, “Tea Canteens were spotted not only in the bombed-out streets of London, but also on the back lines of the war’s battlegrounds. Canteens followed the Allied troops as they crossed France and marched into Germany. Grateful communities from Wisconsin to Ceylon raised funds to sponsor these rolling tea wagons that brought a bit of home comfort to battle-weary soldiers.”
Black Tea was purchased from around the world and was a favorite of the British Allies, whereas Green Tea was more prominent in Japan.
According to the National Library of Medicine website, coffee was also vital in World War II in regard to morale. “The War Department considered coffee an essential element to the troops’ diet as it lifted the welfare and morale of the men. Military men believed that a warm cup of coffee completed the ration meal. In fact, the Army requisitioned “ten times” more coffee in 1942 than in 1941, before Pearl Harbor.
Interestingly, “the War Department developed different types of rations for the U.S. troops, and coffee allotments varied with ration type. The garrison ration was issued for peace times, troops traveling who were separated from field kitchens, and for national emergencies. For troops in active combat, the Army field forces commanders issued C, K, or D rations each including high-calorie foodstuffs. Powdered coffee was delivered in C-rations to military troops, whereas field ration K was issued with “5 grams soluble coffee” at breakfast only. In contrast, the peacetime or garrison ration consisted of two ounces of roasted and ground coffee.”
In more recent times, many U.S. miliary members regularly deploy to Middle Eastern countries, where U.S. leaders are now attempting to bring cultural awareness to the forefront so that peace-keeping goals can be more readily achieved. In an Army Press document titled “Through the Lens of Cultural Awareness: A Primer for US Armed Forces Deploying to Arab and Middle Eastern Countries,” the author William D. Wunderle urges cultural awareness curriculum for today’s military members. Tea and its culture are a part of this awareness and an entry in Munchery.com describes tea’s significant role: “As one delves into the world of Middle Eastern tea, a tapestry of flavors, traditions, and social customs unfolds, revealing the profound impact of this ancient beverage on daily life, social gatherings, and even diplomatic engagements.”
In a Military Times article, Brandon Friedman describes his personal experience with tea as a soldier in the Middle East, “…drinking tea with Iraqi and Afghan fighters between missions. It was how we bonded.”
Today, the Defense Logistics agency states that coffee is still in ration packages, but there are more brand-name foods available in them as well, creating a sense of home in the ready-to-eat packages. Military members consume these rations along with the same hot beverages they have been drinking for generations.
Some Oliver Pluff coffee varieties to try this Veterans’ Day are Colonial Blend or the Early American coffee trio, and possibly the Morning Mud, which definitely invokes a sense of military perseverance. East Indian brisk black tea or the Colonial Tea Collection certainly would do for an essential morale boost as would the caravan tea, which is a smoky campfire inspired tea.
This November 11, try sharing a cup of tea or coffee with a Veteran as a special way to say thank you.