Today in history, December 16, is the anniversary of the infamous Boston Tea Party. Sam Adams, and 60 of his fellow pissed-off Sons of Liberty, dressed as Mohawk Indians, boarded three ships in the night -the Beaver, Dartmouth, and Eleanor – and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor in defiance of King George III and his ‘taxation tyranny.’
There’s a great line from the song “You’ll Be Back” in the new musical Hamilton, where King George sings to the colonists, “You cry in your tea which you hurl in the sea when you see me go by. Why so sad?” One imagines the crazy King George in his long white curly wig and velvet robes contemplating the brazen act of these American patriots. Hmmm sounds familiar, we have another crazy egomaniac today with hair issues we’re having to contend with!
But exactly what type of tea did those brave Sons of Liberty hurl in the sea from those three Dutch East India ships that fateful day 244 years ago?
Firstly, all of the tea dumped that day came from the Chinese province of Canton via the Dutch East India Company. It’s not so far from today’s issues with Chinese steel imports creating what some think an unfair trade advantage.
Bohea tea was the most popular tea in the English world. Today, it’s referred to as Wuyi tea. So popular was this tea, that it became the slang term for tea in Colonial America. It consisted of scrap tea, broken orange pekoe, pekoe,, and souchong dumped in a pile then sifted. The best was put in chests and the twigs, fannigs, and dust were used to make what was called brick and tablet tea, all of which were sold under the generic name Bohea.
Next was souchong tea, a large leaf tea, which has less caffeine than the other teas. It is smoked, like other black teas, but retains more of that smoky flavor than most.
Congou tea was the highest quality black tea. It’s leaves are twisted for curing and was the original English breakfast tea. Today it’s been replaced by Ceylon teas, or Earl Grey.
One variety of green tea, Hyson, would have been on board the ships too, as it was popular in America. It is the most desirable green tea and the first picking in the spring before the monsoon rains.
The American Revolutionists recommended that in defiance of the tea taxation tyranny, Americans replace the above teas with an herbal tea called Labrador. So, if you want to drink patriotically today, find a good Labrador tea and a good biscuit to dunk.