Continued from Tuesdays With Norwood: Tea Reaches England At Last – Part Two

Thus, seven years after Mr. Pepys drank his first cup of tea, Mrs. Pepys enjoyed a similar experience. Quoth his Diary of 1667: “Home and found my wife making of tea; a drink Mr. Pelling, the potticary, tells her is good for her cold and defluxions.” Defluxions notwithstanding, it must be a matter of regret that Mr. Pelling and his brethren degraded tea from a pure pleasure to the lowly status of a remedy. All the same, “tea had come,” as Alice Repplier writes in her now almost unobtainable To Think of Tea!, “as a deliverer to a land that called for deliverance; a land of beef and ale, of heavy eating and abundant drunkenness; of grey skies and harsh winds; of strong- nerved, stout-purposed, slow-thinking men and women. Above all, a land of sheltered home and warm firesides–firesides that were waiting–waiting, for the bubling kettle and the fragrant breath of tea.”

A couple years after Mrs. Pepys’ experience, John Company’s first shipment of tea arrived from the East and, by a strange coincidence, tea imports from Holland were forbidden by English law. The Company was not exactly a Young Men’s Christian Association; it deliberately kept the cost of tea high until well after 1700, by which year the average annual importation was about thirty thousand pounds, occasionally twice that. Although the cheap cotton cloth imported from its three main factories in India was the chief reason for the Company’s rising profits–annual dividends were reaching 20 or even 50 percent–the tea business was looking up. Tea was in continually greater demand and the Company had finally managed to establish a factory in China, upriver from Portuguese-held Macao right outside the very walls of Canton. Thus by 1702, the directors were able to order an entire ship’s cargo of tea, well and closely packed in chests or boxes, to be two-thirds Singlo, one-sixth Imperial, and one-sixth Bohea.