Every country that has been occupied by another – and gains independence and self rule – has some sort of commemorative ritual honoring the breakaway event. In North America, our neighbor to the south celebrates Mexican Independence Day on September 16. Fireworks, feasting, and a festival atmosphere mark this day. Cinco de Mayo is much better known throughout the Americas, celebrating Mexico’s unlikely victory over France, featuring fireworks and parades.
In the United States, our independence is inextricably entwined with tea. A catalyst for the Revolutionary War was the dumping of several tons of tea into Boston Harbor on a cold December evening. At the time of the tea party, Americans drank more tea per capita than Great Britain. Primarily green tea, Great Britain imposed a steep tax on the tea, figuring that the pesky and rebellious colonists would rather pay the tariff than do without their morning cuppa. The tax was levied as the tea made landfall, but a gang of ragtag colonists in disguise made sure that never happened by dumping it into the sea. Of course, the merchants shipping the tea lost money, and Great Britain was not amused. Three years later, when the United States won our independence from Great Britain, most of the country had switched to drinking coffee from Central and South America.
The Boston Tea Party has re-emerged as a symbol of protest against too much government interference in the daily lives of citizens. Far be it for this writer to plunge T Ching into the swamp of political opinion. Suffice to say that the modern day Tea Party shares at least one attribute with the Boston Tea Party: disguise of their real agenda under a tea bag flag.
In most of the United States, the 4th of July is a holiday marked by parades, barbecue, fireworks and alcohol consumption. For the teetotalers out there, summer weather encourages the consumption of iced tea. Unsweetened and brewed strong with a squirt of lemon to preserve the polyphenols and catechins, it is refreshing and delightful served over ice cubes.
The hot brew that reminds me of July 4 is Lapsang Souchong. This tea is cured over a pine-smoke fire and allows the consumer to smell the fireworks without ever lighting a match. Lapsang Souchong simply is not one of those take-it-or-leave-it teas: either you love it, or you loathe it.
What tea are you drinking tomorrow?