The first cup of primitive form of tea was brewed by native Americans some thousand years ago, scientists have claimed.

Inhabitants of Cahokia, a massive pre-Columbus settlement near the meeting point of Missouri and Mississippi rivers in Illinois, consumed a ‘Black Drink’ from ceramic beakers, the Daily Mail reported.

The beverage, made from toasted holly leaves and stems, was six times more potent than coffee.

“This finding brings to us a whole wide spectrum of religious and symbolic behaviour at Cahokia that we could only speculate about in the past,” director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey Dr Thomas Emerson said.

Researchers tested pottery beakers found in and around Cahokia for residues of ‘Black Drink’ because the vessels were different and relatively rare.

It could have been created for special ceremonies and is the first known evidence of a tea-like drink in what is now the US.

A study of residues absorbed into eight porous, unglazed mugs found traces of the obromine, caffeine and ursolic acid which provided a chemical signature of the holly species Ilex.

The unique vessels with a handle on one side, a tiny lip on the other and carved with symbols of water and the underworld date to about 1050 to 1250 AD.

Cahokia was a city with as many as 100,000 residents in its heyday – the largest prehistoric North American settlement north of Mexico.

The pre-Columbian settlement at Cahokia was the largest city in North America north of Mexico, with as many as 50,000 people living there at its peak.

Europeans were the first to record the use of what they called ‘the black drink’ by Native American men in the southeast.

(This article was published on August 7, 2012)
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