Previous in series: Tuesdays With Norwood: Bootleg Tea – Part 3

I am heartily glad that we shall keep Jamaica and the
East Indies another year, that one may have time to
lay in a stock of tea and sugar to last for the rest of
one’s days. I think only of the necessaries of life….
The friends of government, who have thought on
nothing but reducing us to our islandhood and
bringing us back to the simplicity of ancient times,
when we were the frugal, temperate, virtuous old
England, ask how we did before tea and sugar were
known. Better, no doubt; but as I did not happen to
be born two or three hundred years ago, I cannot
recall precisely whether diluted acorns and barley-
bread spread with honey, made a very luxurious

–Horace Walpole writing to Sir H. Mann,
15 November 1779

As expected of good colonists everywhere, the American colonists did their damnedest to ape the fashions of their mother countries. Thus when the English relieved the Dutch of New Amsterdam and rechristened it New York in 1674, they found themselves in possession of a colony that probably drank more tea than all England put together at the time. The directors of John Company must have delighted to watch as the demand grew in America over the following decades. The sober Quakers created a new market for ” the cups that cheer but not inebriate” when, under the patronage of Willam Penn, they founded Philadelphia in 1682. In 1712, a year after Mr. Addison prescribed tea for “all well-regulated households” in London, a Boston apothecary named Zabdiel Boylston hastened to advertise “Green and ordinary tees” for sale. By 1730 it was sold in every Boston dry-goods, grocers, hardware, milllinery and apothecary shop and advertised in every newspaper. Both green and Bohea were known in the Carolinas by 1725.

A Puritan letter writer complained in 1740: “Almost every little tradesman’s wife must sit sipping tea for an hour or more in the morning, and again in the afternoon, if they can get it, and nothing will please them to sip it out of but chinaware. They talk of bestowing of thirty or forty shillings on a tea equipage, as they call it. There is the silver spoons, the silver tongs, and many other trinkets that I cannot name…”

To be continued in Tuesdays With Norwood: Colonial America – Part 2