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The Boston Tea Party (1773)
"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks."
~ Samuel Adams (1722-1803)
As a consequence of the Boston Tea Party, the pre-revolutionary protest against British taxation, tea drinking became unpatriotic in the American colonies. In the middle of the night, a group of colonists raided ships and dumped the tea cargo overboard because they viewed the East India Company as an illegitimate monopoly. Under the terms of the so-called “Tea Act” passed by Parliament, they had no choice but to buy their tea from a company chosen by the government. As a result, boycotts of tea led to an increase in consumption of other beverages, such as coffee or herbal teas infused with peppermint, sage or dandelions. To this day, coffee remains more popular than tea in the United States.
Afternoon Tea/English Breakfast
W.D. Cooper, 1789 from an engraving, a plate opposite p. 58. - Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress
The Boston Tea Party was a political protest in pre-revolutionary days by the Sons of Liberty (a secret society formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight taxation by the British government). On December 16th, the demonstrators, some disguised as Native Americans, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773, which had granted the British East India Company Tea a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies.
The Sons of Liberty boarded the ships and threw the chests of 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor.
This act led to a series of punitive laws (the "Intolerable Acts") passed by the British Parliament in 1774 which further figured in the grievances of colonists leading up to the American Revolution.
By the time of the American Revolution, tea was drunk everywhere from the backwoods to the cities.
In the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now known as New York, tea was served with the best silver strainers, the finest porcelain cups and pots, and wooden tea caddies. In Salem, Massachusetts, tea leaves were boiled to create a bitter brew, then served as a vegetable side dish with butter.
As a consequence of the Boston Tea Party, tea drinking became unpatriotic. Boycotts of tea led to an increase in consumption of other beverages, such as coffee or herbal teas infused with peppermint, sage or dandelions. To this day, coffee remains more popular than tea in the United States.
Eventually, tea drinking resumed is a more neutral connotation in the United States. Ironically, one of the most popular teas, "English breakfast tea," a traditional blend of teas originating from Assam, Ceylon, and Kenya, is believed to have origins in America dating back to the colonies.
By 1843, the favoured blend of Congou, Pekoe, and Pouchong, developed by a tea merchant from New York, was marketed by the term "English breakfast tea" and gave rise to many imitators.
Accounts of the emergence of the blend in the UK give its origins in Scotland in 1892, where it was initially known simply as "breakfast tea". It was in part further popularized by Queen Victoria who returned to England with a supply after tasting the tea at Balmoral, leading to its subsequent acquisition of the prefix "English."
For lesser known facts about the Boston Tea Party of 1773, have a cup of tea and click the illustration.