Do you remember learning about the transcontinental railroad in school? I learned about it a little more than 2 decades ago and don’t recall much about the railroad part. However, I retained a greater life lesson from that chapter in history class.
This article describes the most important part of the school lecture, and how we can use that information during a survival situation.
First, A Warning
I went to school long before everyone became “woke”. Hell, “political correctness” just started to be a thing when I was in high school. My teacher came from the back-woods of Liberty County, Texas and proudly claimed to be of “Indian” descent (I think she was ¼ Cherokee or Wichita). She was a country girl, but her teaching method was probably influenced by how her ancestors were oppressed by the “white man”.
The History Lesson
My teacher told us that Chinese people were used as cheap labor to build the railroad, and some were even forced to work on the project because they were shanghaied and stranded here in the United States. The Chinese workers bore the brunt of the work and were often discriminated against. The practice of making and drinking tea was often looked down upon as inferior by white people. The funny thing is, the Chinese didn’t die from illnesses as often as whites.
She explained that white people drank water from questionable sources like streams or stagnant water from barrels, and oftentimes got sick from waterborne illnesses (like dysentery). The Chinese boiled water to make tea, which killed harmful bacteria in the water.
Of course, no one knew about germs because Germ Theory was just being discovered in Europe when the transcontinental was being built. They observed that Chinese people were hardier workers and, obviously, were better suited to labor.
If a disaster causes civilization to end and we have to survive on water of dubious cleanliness, brewing tea will help ensure the “water” is safe. If you have kids, the process of making tea could be a good way to teach them about the importance of making water safe by boiling it.
Basic Tea Recipe
Growing up, I was taught to use 1 teaspoon of tea per 1 cup of water. Use the ratio as a guide when making a whole pot/kettle of tea… because I know you aren’t going to waste time and energy to boil water for one-single-solitary-cup 😉
Metallic pot and kettle sizes vary, but the average size in the USA is about 1.5 quarts (6 cups). I use this amount in the recipe.
- 2 tablespoons (6 tsp.) tea leaves or chopped herbs (or 4-6 teabags)
- 6 cups water
- Pour water into a pot and add tea or chopped herbs.
- Bring to a boil and continue boiling for no less than 10 minutes.
- Cool to a comfortable temperature and drink.
If you’re getting tired of tasting the iodine or chlorine from water purification tablets, you can use tea to enhance the flavor. The amount of ingredients is a bit different for this recipe because the size of most glass pickle jars is 1 gallon. Also, sun-brewing takes much longer to make and allows more time to release the tea into water.
- 3-4 tablespoons (9-12 tsp.) tea leaves (or 8-10 teabags)
- 1 gallon purified water
- 1 glass jar with lid
- Optional: Aluminum foil
- Pour purified water into a large sealable glass pickle jar and add tea.
- Seal lid and set in the sun to brew for about 6-8 hours. You may use aluminum foil or some other reflective material to deflect more light into the chamber and get a better brew.
 Dysentery: The Oregon Trail was a popular videogame when I was in elementary school, so dysentery was a perfect example for this lesson.
 Truly Safe Water: Boiling water may kill microorganisms, but it cannot remove harmful chemicals and metals. Other low-tech methods may be necessary if forced to drink water from a source that may be contaminated by chemical or metallic substances. Distilling water kills microbes, removes metals, and some chemicals with low boiling points.
The only way to remove 99% of everything is to use a reverse osmosis filter.
 1 Tsp. to 1 Cup: It’s probably a good idea to use a little less tea than the old 1:1 guide because you’ll be boiling the tea for a longer time, meaning more flavor will be released. Plus, the supply of tea is going to scarce. The exception to this frugal advice is if you’re brewing tea for medicinal properties. If you’re using medicinal herbs, use the full amount to ensure a good infusion.
 Use Purified Water: DO NOT use unpurified water for sun-brewed tea. I don’t think it’s necessary to say this to most of my readers, but the lack of common sense displayed by some people will amaze you.
 Glass Jar: I emphasize using a glass jar to make sun-brewed tea because glass will allow more light energy into the jar and retain it. Another reason is that plastic jars will leach chemicals into the water, especially when exposed to UV radiation or sunlight.