Tea Party winners: Roseanna M. White's winner is Debbie Wilder, Denise Weimer's print copy of Widow goes to Andrea Stephens, Debra E. Marvin's winners for Ebook collection are Cheryl Baranski and Rachel Koppendrayer, Carrie Fancett Pagels' ebook collection goes to Joan Arning and paperback to Connie, Gina Welborn's winner is Regina Fujitani, Gabrielle Meyer's paperback copy of A Mother in the Making is Teri Geist DiVincenzo

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Role of Tea in the American Revolution by Cynthia Howerter

You may recall my post on February 5, 2014 about colonial tea tables (An 18th Century Tea Table). The research for that article prompted me to learn more about the role of tea in Colonial America. I hope you find this brief history about tea and the American Revolution as interesting as I do. 

During the French and Indian War (1756-1763) and Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763-1766), England’s national debt skyrocketed—in part, from the high cost of supplying its military to the American colonies to fight these two wars. After these wars ended, England recognized a need for the continued defense of its colony and kept an army on American soil.
England's red coated soldiers
Faced with paying for an astronomical national debt as well as the cost of keeping an army in America, Parliament needed to raise income. Because the British government believed the colonists should shoulder a considerable amount of the cost of their defense, Parliament created revenue-raising taxes for the American colonies. Lacking representation, the American colonists had no say in the taxes that Britain forced on them. 

In June 1767, the British imposed the Townshend Revenue Acts on the colonies. These Acts imposed taxes for necessities such as glass, lead (used in bullet-making), paper, and tea. Unfortunately, the colonies were experiencing economic hardships as a result of the two recent wars, and these new taxes did not sit well with the Americans. 

Provoked colonists began purchasing imported tea from sources other than England’s East India Company. The ripple effect was that East India Company’s tea sales plummeted, and the company asked the British government for help.
Loose black tea
The British government’s response was the establishment of the Tea Act of 1773.  This Act did not raise taxes on the colonists, but gave the East India Company a monopoly to trade tea in the American colonies and prevented other tea importers from doing business in the colonies. It also allowed East India Company agents to sell directly to the American colonies which meant that tea sales bypassed Colonial merchants and caused them severe financial distress. 

The colonists saw this Act as yet another means of England trying to control the American colonies. The result was that colonists refused to unload tea from East India Company ships in the ports of New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston.

Colonists in Boston took things one step further. On December 16, 1773, Patriots boarded the East India Company’s ships anchored in Boston Harbor and threw thousands of pounds of tea—costing about $1,000,000 in today’s money—into the water.  We know this action as “The Boston Tea Party.”

Outraged at The Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774 which were specifically designed to punish the citizens of Massachusetts for their role in ruining the tea in Boston Harbor. Incensed, the Americans renamed these "The Intolerable Acts." These Intolerable Coercive Acts removed Massachusetts’ self-governing rights, prompting the start of a colony-wide revolt that began the American Revolutionary War.
American soldiers of all ages joined in the fight for their independence
After refreshing my memory with the role tea played in our country’s history, I’ll never again be able to enjoy this beverage without acknowledging its part in my American citizenship. What about you? 

All photographs ©2014 Cynthia Howerter

Award-winning author Cynthia Howerter loves using her training in education, research, writing, and speaking to teach and inspire others about a time in America that was anything but boring. A member of the Daughters of the American revolution (DAR), Cynthia believes history should be alive and personal.

Visit Cynthia's website: Cynthia Howerter - all things historical



  1. Cynthia, I enjoyed your article very much. Thanks for the reminder of our American history.

  2. Wonderful article, Cynthia. Thanks so much!

  3. Thank you, Mrs. Tina. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

  4. Thank you, Carrie. I'm glad you liked this. It was a joy to research and write this article and to become reacquainted with the events that led to our country's formation.

  5. I agree. Tea is not just tea. It makes me love both my ancestry and my nationality, for all those who believed in action rather than apathy. It's also so very civilized. Not just in a British way but in the places where it began--an almost ceremonious relationship with nature that reminds us to slow down and savor life.

  6. Thanks, Debra! I learned how to make tea using loose tea because I wanted to learn how it was done in earlier times and in doing so, found I prefer using it to tea bags.

  7. Loved the article. I am a big fan of tea and purchase American Classic Tea which can be found here. http://www.charlestonteaplantation.com/about-us/history.aspx

    I was interested to learn that Charleston had it's own tea party at the harbor, even before the more famous Boston tea party. Circumstances were slightly different in Charleston. You can read about it here: http://www.teachingushistory.org/CharlestonTeaPartyarticleintheSouthCarolinaGazetteNovember211774.html


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