Although some Americans renounced tea as a social beverage during the Revolutionary War, it regained popularity when the war ended.

After the war the entrepreneurship of Americans like the Pecks of Boston, Derbys of Salem, Browns of Providence, Constables, Parkers, Schermerhorns, and Vanderbilts of New York, and the Morris family of Philadelphia, the United States of America entered the China trade. These families had ships built, sometimes making nearly 50% above their initial investment.

Shipbuilding provided multiple jobs: carpenters, sailmakers, and ropemakers were just some of the tradesmen who benefited. The Yankees set sail for the Pacific Northwest, taking candles, oil, wool, glass, paper, and rum to trade for furs that we would take to China, along with some ginseng, woolen garments, cotton, and lead to barter for silks, spices, and their exotic tea. That first American ship, the Empress of China, was designed by Mr. Peck from Boston and refitted in New York. It set sail from New York on George Washington’s 52nd birthday, February 22, 1784.

On May 11, 1785, the Empress of China returned to New York with about 324,000 pounds of BLACK TEA, 75,000 pounds of GREEN TEA, NANKEEN hand-woven cloth (cotton), around 133,000 pounds of CHINAWARE to be stowed along the bottom of the hull, 490 pieces of SILK, and 2,780 pounds of CASSIA (Chinese cinnamon).

Their total capital investment, $120,000, netted $30,727 (a little more than 25%).

The new American government waived the duty fee for 9-18 months after an American ship returned from the Orient, thus allowing the merchants a virtually interest-free loan. After the first United States inauguration of George Washington in New York on April 30, 1789, the U.S. government levied its first tea tax of 15 cents a pound on black tea; 22 cents on Imperial; and 55 cents on Young Hyson. Tea led the way in founding America. In a letter to George William Fairfax in June, George Washington wrote, “…in short the ministry may rely on it that Americans will never be tax’d without their own consent that the cause of Boston the despotick Measures in respect to it I mean now and is and ever will be considered as the cause of America (not that we approve their conduct in destroying the tea).” It is ironic that because the colonists did not accede to England’s Tea Act of 1773, George Washington’s own words would ring true fifteen years later, when we enacted our own taxation on tea.

The 18th century witnessed the firm establishment of tea as a social (as well as therapeutic) beverage in the New World, the United States of America.