September 21, 2023

Beef Tea Remedy from 1800s, and My 1980s Brooklyn Grandma

Has anyone out there ever heard of something called beef tea?

I was told that my father’s mother and aunt used to make this to cure the kids’ maladies when he and his cousins were growing up.

When we visited my grandma in South Brooklyn back in the 1970s and ’80s, she had a special glass pot that she used to make coffee and this also doubled as her beef tea simmer pot.

Here we go, this is a picture of the Pyrex pot that my grandma kept. You could get one on eBay right now if you wanted to.

I do remember drinking beef tea at my grandma’s. I was very young at the time, maybe three or four at most. Everyone was curious to see how I liked it and I guess it was okay. Just basically broth.

The adults who were present all thought it was simply delicious, and they gobbled up the tender, savory meat along with the rich broth.

My dad said that as a young child he was a poor eater and they could never figure out why. He just wasn’t ever hungry and so his mother would make beef tea to nourish him.

One fateful day his appendix burst, and he claims that was the life-changing incident that brought him an appetite.

It is likely that his mother had him drink more beef tea during recovery from his appendectomy.

I don’t really remember that detail in particular. But I do remember him saying that once he healed after his operation, he became ravenous, and has been ever since.

I have never in my life heard anyone else mention beef tea, and it has never occurred to me to ask if anyone else knew about it or drank it.

Today a video about beef tea of all things, showed up in my YouTube feed.

I’ve been watching these young history buffs who have a YouTube channel reenacting scenes from daily colonial life.

(These videos started showing up for me right after I purchased a colonial hat on Amazon. Got to love the internet.)

So today’s colonial edutainment showed the young woman of the series making guess what, beef tea!

The video dates the use of beef tea as a healing remedy, back to the 1800s. My grandma was born I think in around 1910. Fascinating!

Here’s the video about beef tea if you’d like to watch.

Interestingly enough, the video about colonial life also shared a number of old historic references to beef tea being used as a remedy for stomach problems.

Justine, who stars in the videos along with her co-star Ron, whom I’m assuming is her husband or partner based on the beefy kiss that they share at the end of this video,  gives instructions on how to make the tea, and then proceeds to  take us through her cooking process.

The end result, she said, tasted like ramen noodle broth. Which makes complete sense.

I thought this was all very interesting and had to call my dad and tell him the news that I finally heard someone else say something about beef tea!

I think I may have to get some beef at ShopRite one of these days and simmer some up and see what it does for me.

Has anyone else out there heard the term beef tea being used to describe a slowly simmered broth made from beef?

If you try making beef tea according to the instructions in this video, let me know how it goes!