A Washington of Tea

Here in northern Virginia, we are happy to have the home of America’s first president, General George Washington himself. His estate, Mount Vernon, sits on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. He grew many things on his estate, largely wheat, but also tobacco, cotton, and many food products. He did not, however, grow tea. Nor did he participate in any of the eighteenth century tea parties in the years leading up to the American Revolution. He was slightly more dignified than that. So why, might you ask, do I include him in a blog about tea?

Because I feel that in addition to his importance as a leader, everyone should know that he was also a tea drinker. He drank three cups of fine quality green tea each day with breakfast, possibly gunpowder. He also ordered Hyson, Young Hyson, Congo, Bohea, Imperial, and an unnamed green tea. His tea habits did not change, even after the Boston Tea Party. Although many colonists boycotted tea in protest of taxes, not everyone made the change. At the time that the Revolution began, Americans consumed nearly ten pounds of tea per year, per person. This made Americans the greatest tea drinkers of all nations. Although the Revolution inspired some to switch to coffee or chocolate, tea did retain some of its popularity.

During the American Revolution, Washington did not receive pay as General of the Continental Army. Luckily, his estate made him quite wealthy, so he could afford to lose the paycheck. He did ask that his expenses be paid, including tea that cost well more than twenty dollars per pound in today’s money. Later, as head of state, he and Martha served tea at all state occasions.

If you would care to see some of the Washington’s teawares, the museum at Mount Vernon has a lovely collection. Apparently, there is also a book called Tea With Presidential Families providing further information on the subject. It sounds like it would be worth checking out.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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