Friday, April 30, 2021

Tea for Parties for Children & Adults, Courting & Marriage in the 18C America

Joseph Van Aken  (Antwerp-born British painter, c.1699‑1749) Detail of A Family at Tea 1725

At first the scarcity & expense of the tea, the costly paraphernalia used to serve it, & the leisure considered necessary to consume it, limited the use of tea drinking to the upper classes. Social tea drinking was a prestige custom.

In America, as in England, tea had a rather limited use as a social beverage during the early 1700’s. At this time ale & wine, in contrast to tea, were fairly common drinks. Colonial gentry in Virginia & in the Carolinas a preference was showed for "sober liqueurs," while the common partaking of tea caught on slower in New England.

Of Boston, where he visited in 1740, Joseph Bennett observed that “the ladies here visit, drink tea & indulge every little piece of gentility to the height of the mode & neglect the affairs of their families with as good grace as the finest ladies in London.” (See British lawyer Joseph Bennett's 1740 "History of New England.")

During the 18th century the serving of tea privately in the morning & socially in the afternoon or early evening was an established custom in many households. 

In Boston the people “take a great deal of tea in the morning,” have dinner at two o’clock, & “about five o’clock they take more tea, some wine, madeira & punch, ”reported the Baron Cromot du Bourg, Marie Francois Joseph Maxime (1756–1836) during his visit in 1781, when he was Rochambeau's aide from 26 March to 18 November 1781 & left a valuable journal.

Tea seems to have been the excuse for many a social gathering, large or small, formal or informal. And sometimes an invitation to drink tea meant a rather elegant party for both children & adults. 

At tea parties, cakes, cold pastries, sweetmeats, preserved fruits, & plates of cracked nuts might also be served, according to Mrs. Anne Grant’s reminiscences of pre-Revolutionary America. . . Sometimes wine & punch were served at teatime, & “in summer,” observed Barbé-Marbois, “they add fruit & other things to drink.”  (See Memoirs of an American Lady: With Sketches of Manners and Scenery in America, as they Existed Previous to the Revolution.)

As the Frenchman Claude Blanchard explained, young men & women enjoyed the sociability of teatime, for it provided an ideal occasion to get acquainted. (See The Journal of Claude Blanchard Commissary of the French Auxiliary Army Sent to the United States During the American Revolution, 1780-1783.)

Tea was not only a beverage of courtship; it also was associated with marriage. Both Peter Kalm, in 1750, & Moreau de St. Méry, in the 1790’s, report the Philadelphia custom of expressing good wishes to a newly married couple by paying them a personal visit soon after the marriage. It was the duty of the bride to serve wine & punch to the callers before noon & tea & wine in the afternoon.

Charles Philips (British artist,  1703–1747) The Strong Family detail

Tea sets were available for children. . . No doubt, make-believe teatime & occasionally real tea drinking were a part of some children’s playtime activities. With grown-up assistance, at least one little girl even got to hold her very own tea party, inviting "20 young misses" "by card 3 days before." The party was lavish, thrown by her mother Nancy when Peggy Livingston was given leave to spend the winter & spring of 1787 in Philadelphia. Peggy, at about the age of five, was allowed to invite 20 girls to her own “Tea Party & Ball.” She “treated them with all good things, & a violin,” wrote her grandfather. There were “5 coaches at ye door at 10 when they departed. I was much amused 2 hours.”

Moreau de St. Méry observed in 1795, during his residence in Philadelphia, that “the whole family is united at tea, to which friends, acquaintances & even strangers are invited.” . . . In the daily routine of activities when the hour for tea arrived, Moreau de St. Méry remarked that “the mistress of the house serves it & passes it around.” 

Another late-18th-century diarist, the Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, those present might “seat themselves at a spotless mahogany table, & the eldest daughter of the household or one of the youngest married women makes the tea & gives a cup to each person in the company.”

Throughout the 18th century the most elegant & well-equipped tea table would have displayed a teapot, slop bowl (for tea dregs), container for milk or cream, tea canister, sugar container, tongs, teaspoons, & cups & saucers. These pieces were basic to the tea ceremony, with the addition of a tea urn which came into use during the latter part of the 18th century.

According to Peter Kalm, “when the English women [that is, of English descent] drank tea, they never poured it out of the cup into the saucer to cool it, but drank it as hot as it came from the teapot.” A “dish of tea” was an expression rather than a way of drinking tea in the 18th century. On the table a saucer seems always to have been placed under the cup whether the cup was right side up or upside down.

See: Rodris Roth, Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America: Its Etiquette & Equipage. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1961). This excellent book by Rodris Roth that can be found online in its entirety at Project Gutenberg. 

See: Hudson Valley Clermont State Historic Site

See: The Blog Colonial Quills Taking Tea in Colonial America by Carla Gade October 14, 2015

Monday, April 26, 2021

Taxation & a Looming Revolution led some Colonial Gentle-Ladies to reflect on no longer using their Glorious Tea Equipage

Unknown artist Detail 18C Family Tea-c1745 Yale Center for British Art Paul Mellon Collection 

Drinking tea was nearly forsaken in the British American colonies (except for American grown substitutes) during the years of taxation & separation from Britain.  The earliest version of this poem “A Lady’s Adieu to her Tea Table” appeared in the Virginia Gazette, January 20, 1774.

A Lady’s Adieu to Her Tea-Table

Farewell the Tea Board, with its gaudy Equipage,

Of Cups and Saucers, Cream Bucket, Sugar Tongs,

The pretty Tea Chest also, lately stor’d

With Hyson and Congo and best Double Fine. (Types of Tea)

Full many a joyous Moment have I sat by ye,

Hearing the Girls’ Tattle, the Old Maids talk Scandal.

And the spruce Coxcomb laugh at – maybe – Nothing.

No more shall I dish out the once lov’d Liquor,

Though now detestable,

Because I’m taught (and I believe it true)

Its Use will fasten slavish Chains upon my Country,

And LIBERTY’s the Goddess I would choose

To reign triumphant in AMERICA.

A similar rhyming version appeared in Massachusetts & other northern colonial newspapers...

                                                                      A Lady’s Adieu to Her Tea-Table

FAREWELL the Tea-board with your gaudy attire,

Ye cups & ye saucers that I did admire;

To my cream pot & tongs I now bid adieu;

That pleasure’s all fled that I once found in you.

Farewell pretty chest that so lately did shine,

With hyson & congo & best double fine;

Many a sweet moment by you I have sat,

Hearing girls & old maids to tattle & chat;

And the spruce coxcomb laugh at nothing at all,

Only some silly work that might happen to fall.

No more shall my teapot so generous be

In filling the cups with this pernicious tea,

For I’ll fill it with water & drink out the same,

Before I’ll lose LIBERTY that dearest name,

Because I am taught (and believe it is fact)

That our ruin is aimed at in the late act,

Of imposing a duty on all foreign Teas,

Which detestable stuff we can quit when we please.

LIBERTY’S The Goddess that I do adore,

And I’ll maintain her right until my last hour,

Before she shall part I will die in the cause,

For I’ll never be govern’d by tyranny’s laws.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Day in the Life of a Gentry Wife in a Colonial Southern Town

Probably French 2nd Half of 18C

To understand the well-to-do housewife in the colonial American South, the most important fact to remember is that she was completely subordinate to her husband. He was the head of the household & exercised ultimate authority.

The wife was her husband's agent responsible for actually managing everyday household affairs. Depending on the family's financial status, she supervised a staff of household servants,  mainly comprised of male & female slaves.

At about 6:00 a.m., the wife arose, awakened the family, determined that breakfast preparations had begun & that fires were burning in the appropriate fireplaces.

Appearance was important, especially in a town setting, where the wife would see visitors & neighbors on a daily basis. Freshening up, dressing often with the assistance of a personal maid, usually a slave, & arranging her hair consumed part of the housewife's morning hours.
New Hall Tea Pot, Pattern 121, c 1785-7

About 7:30 a.m., the wife surveyed the house & kitchen, & often the garden, to see what tasks needed to be accomplished that day & to make certain that breakfast would be served on time.

At 8:00 a.m., servants, usually slaves, served the breakfast. The housewife would manage the meal & spend about a half hour at table with her family. Sunday breakfasts were later & longer in some homes. Breakfasts may or may not have included tea.
A Chinese Export Porcelain Teapot in the Meissen Style, Qianlong c.1750

Beginning about 8:30 a.m.,
while the slaves ate breakfast in the kitchen, the housewife washed the fine glasses & china used at breakfast & left from the previous day either in the dining room, passage, or in a nearby room. She then set out the serving pieces & condiments for the upcoming mid-day dinner table.

After the slaves finished eating in the kitchen, she instructed the cook of the menu for the dinner meal & often measured out ingredients for each dinner dish herself. She told the other servants of their chores for the day & dispensed necessary supplies.

From about 10:00 a.m. to about 2:00 p.m., she supervised work in & around the house, perhaps assisted by teenaged daughters, while younger children received lessons. Daily household chores included cooking, cleaning, dairying, washing, ironing, sewing, & gardening.

Around 1:30 p.m., she checked on the cook's progress with dinner & then retired to her room to freshen up & perhaps change outer garments before dinner.

About 2:00 p.m., she presided over the table with her family & possible guests. Dinner, the largest meal of the day, was also the most formal & the longest. Dinner may or may not have included tea.
Polychrome Saltglaze Teapot Staffordshire 1760

At the end of the meal, she & other females left the men at the dinner table & retired to the hall or parlor for conversation over tea or coffee.

After dinner, the wife determined that the kitchen was put in order & directed the afternoon's baking of hot breads & desserts for supper plus bread for the next day.
Early Qianlong Famille Rose Teapo0-1750, ed, Possibly in England in c.1770

Beginning about 4:00 p.m., she had about 3 hours time of her own, since her staff had already received instructions for the whole working day. She might shop at local stores or visit friends for tea or pay a call on the sick or needy.

If she remained at home, she might have given needlework lessons to young daughters; practiced music with her family; & read. Or she might entertain visitors over tea.

About 7:30 p.m., the wife checked on the preparations for supper, which was generally little more than a snack & usually simple to prepare.

Usually 8:00 p.m.was suppertime for the family & possible guests. After dinner, the wife made certain that the kitchen was put in order & that the fires were banked for the night.

From dinner until about 11:00 p.m., the housewife, her family, & guests usually would socialize at home or with neighbors. Their evening activities included conversation, singing, listening to music, reading aloud, & playing cards. Beverages might include tea, or coffee, or more ardent spirits.
Bow Quilt-moulded Coffee Pot and Tea Pot 1768

Much of this information is from Pat Gibbs, Daily Schedule for an Urban Gentry Housewife. Series: Fresh Advices, A Research Supplement To The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter. Vol 2, No. 6.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

10-Year-Old Girl Learns Proper Tea Etiquette at Finishing School in 1770 Boston

Anna Green Winslow (1759-1779) was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the daughter of Joshua Winslow & his wife Anna Green. In 1770, at the age of 10, she was sent south to a finishing school in Boston, where she lived with her aunt & uncle, Sarah & John Deming. During her separation from her family, she kept a diary sporadically from November 1771 to May 1773. Her aunt encouraged the diary as a penmanship exercise & as a running letter to her parents. Most entries detail her daily routine. She writes of sermons; weather; entertainments; current fashions; & family matters. And this 10-year-old girl writes of taking tea with friends & family of all ages. Winslow was reunited with her parents in 1773, when Joshua Winslow moved them to Marshfield, Massachusetts. In 1775, he was exiled as a Tory; but his family remained behind. Before the end of the Revolution, Anna Green Winslow died of tuberculosis in Hingham, Massachusetts. Anna was 20, when she died.

Some excerpts from Anna's diary:
Nov'r 18, 1771 ...Mr. Beacon ask'd a question. What is beauty--or, wherein does true beauty consist? He answer'd, in holiness--and said a great deal about it that I can't remember, & as aunt says she hasnt leisure now to help me any further--so I may just tell you a little that I remember without her assistance, and that I repeated to her yesterday at tea
Jan'y 31, 1772 ... I was at Aunt Sukey's with Mrs Barrett dress'd in a white brocade, & cousin Betsey dress'd in a red lutestring, both adorn'd with past, perlsmarquesett &c. They were after tea escorted by Mr. Newton & Mr Barrett to ye assembly at Concert Hall...
Feb. 18, 1772 ...Saterday I din'd at Unkle Storer's, drank tea at Cousin Barrel's, was entertain'd in the afternoon with scating...
March 9, 1772 ...It's now tea time--as soon as that is over, I shall spend the rest of the evening in reading to my aunt. It is near candle lighting...
April 14, 1772 ...I went a visiting yesterday to Col. Gridley's with my aunt. After tea Miss Becky Gridley sung a minuet. Miss Polly Deming & I danced to her musick...
April 16, 1772 ...I dined with Aunt Storer yesterday & spent the afternoon very agreeably at Aunt Suky's. Aunt Storer is not very well, but she drank tea with us...
April 24, 1772 ...I drank tea at Aunt Suky's. Aunt Storer was there, she seemed to be in charming good health & spirits...
May 11, 1772 ...I had the pleasure of drinking tea with aunt Thomas the same day, the family all well, but Mr G who seems to be near the end of the journey of life...
May 16, 1772 ...Thursday I danc'd a minuet & country dances at school, after which I drank tea with aunt Storer...
May 31, 1772 ...I spent the afternoon at unkle Joshua's. yesterday, after tea, I went to see how aunt Storer did...

Source: Diary of Anna Green Winslow, A Boston School Girl of 1771 (edited by A. M. Earle 1894).

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

1733 Woman's Tale of her Husband & the Healing Powers of Tea

1720s Joseph van Aken (1699-1749) Detail A Family at Tea

This story about the miraculous virtues of tea was printed in the 1733 Pennsylvania Gazette. Tea was reportedly introduced into the British American colonies in 1714. 

This gentle woman's tale borrowed from the 1733 Pennslyvania newspaper has it all. It tells of the 18C woman having to give all her money to her husband when they marry, but holding a little back, just in case. He drinks & gambles & pays little attention to his business. She uses tea to lure him back & build a happy home. She is a one woman consumer revolution!

Pennsylvania Gazette May 31, 1733

 I am an honest Tradesman's only Daughter, and some Years ago marry'd a Tradesman of his Town. You will believe I lov'd him, when I inform you, that he had nothing to depend on But his Trade, and I was Owner of an Estate, left to me by my Father, richly worth, at that Time of Day, near a Thousand Pounds, part of which consisted of a good House well furnish'd.

My Husband was before Marriage something addicted to Drinking & Gaming, which I did not very well like, but had the Vanity to think I could cure him by good Management of his Temper, which I thought I pretty well knew.

The usual Diversions of a Wedding being over, we did well for about six Months. My Husband was careful and diligent: His Affairs in the Shop went on smoothly and prosperously, and my Kitchen (tho' I say it) was as well manag'd as any in our Town.

But, to my Grief, I afterwards found, that my Husband renew'd his Acquaintance with his old Companions, and needed no great In
vitation to a Tavern.

His Shop was left often to the Care (or rather Carelessness) of his Apprentices, and at some Times when his Presence was most wanted in it. They spoilt as much Work as they did, when they happen'd not to stand still for want of Work laid out for them.

His Customers, on this Account, had almost all left him, and yet
I was urg'd, Time after Time, to call in my Money at Interest to buy Stuff, as he said. I call'd all in that he knew was out, but reserv'd the rest for my own Support; apprehending that this way of buying Stuff would bring me to Beggary.

After most of the Money call'd in was spent upon Stuff, my best Household Goods were sold to buy Stuff too; and it came to that Pass at last we could scarcely get any thing to stuff our Bellys, or cloath our Backs.

As it is not the Business of a Woman to command, I began, in this Extremity, to project Relief. I knew he lov'd Gaming, and to please him this Way, I bought a Wheel of Fortune, a Snake Board, a Back Gammon Table, a Set of Nine Pins, and had a good Alley made in the Garden. If I could have afforded it, I would have purchas'd a Shuffle Board and Billiard Table; for I had two large Rooms stripp'd of all their Furniture to buy St
uff, where they might have been very conveniently plac'd.

However, I took a Game now and then with my Husband, either on the Wheel of Fortune, at Cards, or some other Game I had Materials for; which had this good Effect, that it kept him something more at home than formerly.

Yet strong Liquor he must have, and for this he went to the Taverns. To cure him effectually of rambling abroad, I concluded to buy a Stock of Liquors which pleas'd him best, and keep them in the House for him.

1752-58 Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam” by John Greenwood (American artist, 1727 - 1792)

But happily for me, an old Woman to whom I communicated my Design, inform'd me, that she heard Madam Such a One say, Tea was as spiricus, and more wholesome than any strong Drink, be it Punch, be it Wine, be it Cyder, be it Brandy, be it Rum, be it what it will.

This Information of my Neighbour alter'd my Resolution, and I bought a Tea Table, with its Appurtenances of Earthen, Bath Metal, and Nine Canisters of Tea. I confess my covetous Humour and Unaquaintance with Tea had like to have ruin'd me: For the Cups were so small, and the Tea so weak my Husband said it was drinking Water by Drops.

I therefore bought a large home made Tea Table, and a Set of Earthen Plates and Punch Bowls; one of which Bowls (by the Direction of a Gentlewoman in the Neighbourhood) I fill'd with good strong Te
a for my Husband, who then thought it was something like Drinking.

By Degrees his Desire of strong Liquor wholly left him, and he became an Admirer of Tea; but I found the Love of it did not grow upon him so fast as to oblige me to buy larger Bowls. In a Months Time he was contented with the small Tea Table and Cups and Saucers.

By his Consent I sold the Punch Bowls to a Tavern Keeper, and (to my great Comfort) he has not seen them since. His Inclination to Gaming abating, I burnt my Nine Pins, Frame and all, and dispos'd of all the rest of my Gaming Tools, except the Back Gammon Table, on which we sometimes take a Game in an Evening for a Cup of Tea in the Morning.

This Way of Living has made so great an Alteration in my Husband, that he does not require the tenth Part of the Stuff he us'd to do, and yet does more Work, gets more Money, and is in good Credit with his Neighbours.

The Money and Time he would have spent in Drinking and Gaming, had he not left them off, has, within these two Years past, by my Reckoning, refurnish'
d my two great Rooms, supply'd the Tea Table, and purchas'd two good Milch Cows.

So that besides our having always Milk enough and to spare, for the Family, (and other Wholesome Provisions) I am never at a loss for Cream and Butter with my Tea; and in short, as the saying is, we live together as happy as the Days are long.

I am Sir, Yours, Patience Teacraft.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Serving Tea was a Measure of Social Status in the British American colonies until the mid-18C

Jean-Etienne Liotard (Swiss artist, 1702-1789) Still Life Tea Set, 1781-83

Beginning in the 1690’s, preparing, serving, & drinking tea was a ceremonial act that was woven into the daily life of the more wealthy British American colonists (& those who aspired to be part of that society.) For colonists who could afford the luxurious tea, much pride was found in performing a dignified tea service on each occasion. Usually, the hostess who prepared & served the tea followed a process that included specific manners & equipment. As accompaniment, the colonists brewed tea with equipment that added to the appraisal of their social status. 

A tea canister was used to store the dry tea leaves; these canisters could be bought in sets to match the likes of the other tea equipment & equipage. Some tea canisters had a lid shaped like a sphere to conveniently measure the correct amount of tea to then be poured directly into the teapot. However, caddie spoons & caddie ladles, spoons with short handles & wide bowls, were also used to transfer tea leaves from the canister to the teapot. Each piece, purchased individually or in sets, was needed by a well-mannered hostess to properly serve tea to guests.

The American colonists observed etiquette for the ritual of the tea ceremony. Members of the family, & any guests, would stand or be seated around the tea table, while the mistress of the house would begin the ceremony by measuring out the appropriate amount of dry tea leaves into the tea canister’s lid. 
Standing close by, the maidservant held the kettle of hot water that was ready to be poured over the tea leaves once the mistress of the house placed them in the teapot. The teapot containing the hot, brewing tea was then placed atop of a stand or dish to protect the table from the teapot’s heat. 

Nearby would be the stand for the kettle to be placed & kept warm until it was needed again to clean the cups or add water to the tea. Along with the teapot & tea cups on the table, there was also a bowl for any tea remnants, a dish for cream or milk, & a bowl for sugar. To show wealth & prestige, additional pieces of equipage would adorn the table. 

Tea drinking & tea parties held a significant role in the society of colonial America. Serving tea to one’s guests showed both their politeness & hospitality. In the early 1700’s, tea was more expensive due to its scarceness, & social tea drinking was a luxury of upper class colonists. However, by the mid 1700’s, the East India Company increased the supply of tea to the colonies, decreasing the prices, which allowed more & more people to routinely drink tea. 

Visitors were expected to partake in tea drinking to show respect & appreciation for their host’s generosity; refusing a cup of tea was offensive if not done correctly. The socially acceptable way to refrain from accepting a cup of tea when offered was by turning one’s cup upside down on its saucer with its spoon placed across the top. 

Tea was also drunk in one’s home in the morning, as well as at social events in the afternoon & evening among both men & women. When tea was served with breakfast, milk was typically not added & instead, the tea would be served with bread & butter. At afternoon teatime, the bread & butter would not appear again. As a major commodity, tea became a staple in the private & social lives of the colonist’s mid-18th century.

See: The Blog Oliver Pluff & Co post Tea as a measure of social status in colonial times
Posted by Darren Hartford on March 1, 2017

See: Rodris Roth, Tea Drinking in 18th-Century America: Its Etiquette & Equipage. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1961). This excellent book by Rodris Roth that can be found online in its entirety at Project Gutenberg. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

A Brief History of Tea as it traveled to England & her Colonies (until those pesky, patriotic "tea parties")

Dirk Stoop (Dutch painter, c 1610-1685) Catherine of Braganza Wife of Charles II c 1661

In the 2700s BC, Chinese mythological tales cite the origin of tea-drinking to 2737 BC, when Chinese Emporor Shen Nung sips boiled drinking water into which a tea leaf has floated.  By the 3rdC of the Common Era (AD), many oral stories & some early written medical texts about tea drinks and their health benefits date back to this period in Southeast Asian countries, where the tea plant (camellia sinensis) is native.

In the 6thC, Indian & Japanese legends tell that Indian prince Bodhidharma “couldn’t keep his eyes open while meditating to become a Buddhist priest. Disgusted with himself, he cut off his eyelids & threw them to the ground. From his lashes the camellia (aka tea) plant sprouted.” New tea gardens follow the spread of Buddhism across Asia, as Buddhist monks in China & Japan begin saving the seeds of tea trees, planting them along their travels.
In the 8thC, Chinese tea scholar Lu Yü wrote what is thought to be the 1st book about tea: Ch’a Ching (The Classic of Tea), describing tea’s cultivation, processing, preparation & tea rituals of ancient Asia. A Classic of Tea was written around CE 760 by Lu Yu (733-804), a native of Jingling, located in modern-day Hubei Province. It became popular for its systematic & comprehensive research from the perspective of both the natural & social aspects of tea. It has laid the solid foundation for a uniquely Chinese culture of tea that has fascinated the rest of the world for more than a thousand years. As a result, Lu Yu is known as the “Sage of Tea” in China. 

By the 9thC, tea, called “ch’a,” in China becomes the national drink during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 906), would remain China’s secret for the next 700 years. China did not want to divulge the propagation & drying methods that had been dutifully kept within the confines of the Great Wall. A penalty of death was the price paid for even mentioning roasting & drying.  Tea leaves were so valuable that, compressed into embossed bricks, they were even used for money. Teahouses & tea gardens are now commonplace throughout China.

By the 16thC, Japanese Imperial tea master & Buddhist monk Sen No Rikyu devised a simple, austere tea ceremony known as ‘wabi cha,’ or the “tea of quiet taste”, which requires a “humble reverence for tea & life. However, it did not appeal to the emperor who preferred a glittering, exhibitionist affair. Because of this difference in taste, Sen Rikyu was commanded to commit suicide.” (See: Israel, Andrea. Taking Tea. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987). 

In 1557, Portugal colonizes the Chinese port Macau, & begins bringing tea back to Europe. Arabs also bring tea to Europe by way of their trade with the Venetians in Italy, c 1559. 

In the 17thC, Black tea (called “red tea” in China where it originated) is invented (until this point, teas are green or oolong). As Russia & China work to establish a safe route for trade caravans to travel, the Chinese ambassador to Moscow makes a gift of several chests of tea to Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich, soon making tea a much desired import. It is reported that the Russian aristocracy enjoyed English-style tea ceremonies even before the British made it a part of their culture. There were lavish parties at which society women drank tea as their male companions downed cold vodka.

Prior to its importation to Europe by Dutch traders around 1610, tea was almost unknown to most  Westerners, who routinely began their day with a mug of beer or ale. Three exotic beverages—coffee, tea, and chocolate—arrived in 17C Europe at a time of burgeoning exploration and trade, and their arrival caused a near revolution in drinking habits. Celebrated by some, deplored by others, these stimulating brews gave rise to a number of important social institutions, such as the coffeehouse, the tea garden, and the ritual of afternoon tea. 

In the 17thC, Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam bring the first tea to America in the early 1600s, but Americans do not take instantly to the custom of taking tea. Andrea Israel tells us that “There were still those new Americans who were unfamiliar with the tea leaf. Their dislike of the brown brew probably stemmed from the fact that it was stewed for 2 or 3 hours. Some tried to serve it like spinach with salt & butter, others ate it on toasted bread.”
Charles II by Adriaen Hanneman (England, 1603-1671)

Tea, then called cha, was imported to Europe during the Portuguese expansion of the 16th century. Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, wife of England's Charles II, took the tea habit to the court of Great Britain around 1662. Though Portuguese and Dutch traders have for decades been importing tea to Western Europe, it is King Charles II’s marriage to the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, that ultimately makes tea-drinking popular amongst the British aristocracy. “When Catherine married Charles, she was the focus of attention – everything from her clothes to her furniture became the source of court talk. Her regular drinking of tea encouraged others to drink it. Ladies flocked to copy her and be a part of her circle.” (See: Watkins, Sarah-Beth. Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Restoration Queen. (Croydon: Chronos Books, 2017).

Joseph Van Aken  (Antwerp-born British painter, c.1699‑1749) A Tea Party 1719-1721.

London coffee houses also were responsible for introducing tea to everyday England. One of the 1st coffee house merchants to offer tea was Thomas Garway, who owned an establishment in Exchange Alley in London. He sold both prepared & dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea at £6 and £10 per pound touting its virtues at "making the body active and lusty" & "preserving perfect health until extreme old age."
Attributed to Johann Zoffany (German-born British painter, 1733-1810), A Family of Three at Tea, 1727

Colonial Americans quickly adopted the taste for these imported beverages and their fashionable equipage. Colonial coffeehouses, following the London model, became powerful social catalysts, providing an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and the distribution of news. All three beverages were also consumed in the home, where fine silver and ceramic vessels were especially valued, &
American Silversmiths emulated British and Continental styles. 
Charles Philips (British artist,  1703–1747) Tea Party at Lord Harrington's House, St James detail 1730

Tea was an expensive commodity, as were all the items related to its consumption: the tea table, silver, and porcelain. Tea was normally kept locked by the lady of the household. In Britain & her colonies, knowing how to properly use tea equipment and owning fine porcelain china set her apart from her lessers which is why tea sets and tea leaves were often only handled by the mistress of the house. A noblewoman kept the key for the locking tea caddy or teapoy, from which she smartly blended her own teas, in full view of her guests, to reassure them of the quality of the tea she served. 
Charles Philips (British artist,  1703–1747) The Strong Family detail

Portraits of families at tea demonstrated their wealth, domesticity, and genteel informality.  Tea-drinking came to epitomize civilized behavior in the 18C.  Tea gained popularity quickly in England's coffee houses, & by 1700, over 500 British coffee houses also served tea.
Charles Philips (British artist,  1703–1747) The Cromwell and Thornhill Families Taking Tea detail 1730

The rise in popularity of tea drinking distressed the British tavern owners, as tea cut their sales of ale & gin, & it was bad news for the government, who depended upon a steady stream of revenue from taxes on liquor sales.
Joseph Van Aken  (Antwerp-born British painter, c.1699‑1749) An English Family at Tea 1725

As the century progressed, the use of enslaved labor increased the production of tea and sugar to such an extent that it became available to all classes in society.
Detail The Wollaston Family, William Hogarth, 1730

By 1750, tea had become the favored drink of Britain's lower classes, as well as the wealthy.
A British Family Served with Tea 1745 Unknown

Charles II tried to counter the loss of tax income from spirits arising from the growth of tea, with several acts forbidding its sale in private houses. This measure was designed to counter sedition; but it was so unpopular, that it was impossible to enforce.
Philip Reinagle (British painter, 1749-1833) A Lady and Two Gentlemen seated at a tea table

A 1676 act taxed tea & required coffee house operators to apply for a license.  Failing to curb the popularity of tea, the British government decided to profit from tea.
Gawen Hamilton (British artist, 1692-1737) An elegant family at tea

By the mid 18th-century, the duty on tea had reached an absurd 119%. This heavy taxation had the effect of creating a whole new industry - tea smuggling.
Unknown 18th-Century British Artist, A Tea Party

Ships from Holland & Scandinavia brought tea to the British coast, then stood offshore, while smugglers met them unloading their precious cargo in small vessels. The smugglers, often local fishermen, snuck the tea inland through underground passages & hidden paths to special hiding places. One of the favorite hiding places was in the local parish church.
Joseph Van Aken  (Antwerp-born British painter, c.1699‑1749) An English Family at Tea detail 1720

Even smuggled tea remained expensive for the common man; however, and therefore extremely profitable. Many smugglers began to adulterate the tea with other substances, such as willow, licorice, & sloe leaves. Used tea leaves were also re-dried & added to fresh leaves.
Jean-Etienne Liotard (Swiss artist, 1702-1789) Still Life Tea Set, 1781-83

During the 18th century, tea drinking was as popular in Britain’s American colonies as it was in Britain itself. Legally, all tea imported into America had to be shipped from Britain, & all tea imported into Britain had to be shipped in by the East India Company. The practice of tea drinking arrived with colonists from both England and the Netherlands and was already established by the mid-17C, evidenced by the number of tea wares recorded in household inventories. The earliest of these were undoubtedly imported from abroad, but American silversmiths began producing teapots by the start of the 18C. At first globular or pear-shaped, apple-shaped teapots became the norm by the mid-18C. By the later decades, drum- and oval-shaped pots with straight spouts became popular.
Francis Hayman (1708-1776), Jonathan Tyers and his family, 1740

However, for most of the 18th century, the East India Company was not allowed to export directly to America. But during the 1770s, the East India Company ran into financial problems: illegal tea smuggling into Britain was vastly reducing the amount of tea being bought from the Company.
Ladies Having Tea c 1740 Unknown British artist

Smuggling led to a downturn in its profits, as well as an increase in its stockpile of unsold tea. In an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes & avoid bankruptcy, the Company asked the British government for permission to export tea directly to America, a move that would enable it to get rid of its surplus stock of tea. The Company actually owed the government £1 million, so the government had no desire to let the Company go bankrupt.
Johann Zoffany (German-born painter, 1733-1810) John, Lord Willoughby de Broke, and his Family.  c 1766

Thus in 1773, the Tea Act was passed, granting the Company’s wish, and allowing a duty of 3d per lb to be levied on the exports to America. The Tea Act, passed by Parliament on May 10, 1773, would launch the final spark to the revolutionary movement in Boston. The act was not intended to raise revenue in the American colonies, & imposed no new taxes. It was designed to prop up the East India Company which was floundering financially & burdened with 18 million pounds of unsold tea. This tea was to be shipped directly to the colonies, and sold at a bargain price.
Francis Hayman (1708-1776), The Gasciogne Family

The Townshend Duties were still in place, however, & the radical leaders in America found reason to believe that this act was a maneuver to buy popular support for the taxes already in force. The direct sale of tea, via British agents, would also have undercut the business of local merchants. The colonials were growing increasingly resentful of "taxation without representation."
Drinking tea in the British American colonies, the John Potter Overmantle at the Newport Historical Society in Rhode Island

The British government did not anticipate this being a problem for the colonials. By being exported directly to America, the cost of tea there would actually become cheaper, & 3d per lb was considerably less duty than was paid on tea destined for the British market. But it had underestimated the strength of the American resistance to being taxed at all by Britain. The issue of the taxation in America had been hotly debated for some years.
Drinking tea in the British American colonies, Gansevoort Limner, possibly Pieter Vanderlyn 1687-1778 Susanna Truax.

Many Americans objected on principle to being taxed by a Parliament which did not represent them. Instead, they wanted to raise taxes themselves to fund their own administration. But successive British governments reserved the right to tax the colonies, & various bungled attempts to impose taxation had hardened American opposition. In the later 1760s, opposition took the form of boycotts of taxed goods. As a replacement for them, the Americans either bought smuggled goods or attempted to find substitutes for tea made from native products.
Gawen Hamilton (British Painter, ca.1698-1737) The Sharpe Family Maryland State Archives

Colonists in Philadelphia & New York turned the tea ships back to Britain. In Charleston, the cargo was left to rot on the docks. In Boston the Royal Governor was stubborn & held the ships in port, where the colonists would not allow them to unload. Cargoes of tea filled the harbor, & the British ship's crews were stalled in Boston looking for work & often finding trouble. This situation lead to the Boston Tea Party.

Ordinarily conservative shippers & shopkeepers were directly impacted by the new law & were vocal in their opposition. Previously, American ships brought much of the tea from England, but that trade was now reserved for the East India Company. The shop owners objected to the new practice of using only selected merchants to sell the tea; many would be excluded from this trade in favor of a new monopoly.  The radical patriots found allies in the formerly conservative business community.

Ladies of the gentry class in colonial America did not have the opportunity to attend public meetings, debate, vote, or have a real voice in democracy. Some women, such as Mrs. Charles Carroll & Mrs. William Paca of Annapolis, supported the patriotic cause in other ways. During the years of the American Revolution, these women grew a variety of herbs that replaced English teas. These included varieties of mint, chamomile, rosemary, lemon balm, and valerian root.

Rather than pay tea taxes, even before the Revolution, colonials were looking for tea alternatives, An article in the November 21st, 1768 Boston Gazette advised,  "Tea made from a plant or shrub (Ceanothus americanus) grown in Pearsontown about 20 miles from Portland, Maine, was served to a circle of ladies and gentlemen in Newbury Port, who pronounced it nearly, if not quite, its equal in flavor to genuine Bohea [one of three Chinese black teas tossed overboard later in 1773]. So important a discovery claims attention, especially at this crisis. If we have the plant, nothing is wanted but the process of curing it into tea of our own manufacture."

In 1774, Manasseh Cutler wrote of the Liberty Tea called the New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus Americanus) "The leaves of this shrub have been much used by the common people, in some parts of the country, in the room of India tea; and is, perhaps, the best substitute the country affords. They immerse the fresh leaves in a boiling decoction of the leaves and branches of the same shrub, and then dry them with a gentle heat. The tea, when the leaves are cured in this way, has an agreeable taste, and leaves a roughness on the tongue somewhat resembling that of the bohea tea."

Finally at the end of the resulting war with America, in 1784, William Pitt the Younger introduced the Commutation Act, which dropped the tax on tea from 119% to 12.5%, effectively ending smuggling. And tea did return to the New Republic of the United States of America.