The Original Tea Partiers

It’s a funny thing about tea. Specifically the fact that a drink that we tend to associate with prim and proper little ladies sitting down to ever so civilized afternoon teas or perhaps with equally refined scenes of Asian serenity, as in the Japanese tea ceremony, should also have been associated, over a period of several centuries, with so much intrigue, turmoil and suffering.

If you’re looking for proof of this notion there are a number of sources you can turn to. One of the most recent is Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America, by Benjamin L. Carp. Maybe it’s the definitive book on the topic and perhaps it’s not. I’m not the person to judge. What I will say is that if you want to know how this moment in American history became such a pivotal one – to the point that it is still sparking political unrest to this day – then Carp’s book is a great place to start.

I have to confess that I came to this book more as a tea lover and amateur tea historian than as a student of American history or politics. Carp does a great job of sketching out the myriad causes that led to this pivotal event and the role of tea in Britain’s empire building. But there’s also a part of me that can’t help but view the Boston Tea Party as not merely a revolt against perceived tyranny but also as a waste of about 46 tons of potentially good tea.

It’s tempting to think, as many do, that the Boston Tea Party was a cutoff point and to believe that in its wake Americans suddenly became a nation of coffee drinkers. But keep in mind, as Carp points out, that a number of the colonists who actually took part in this rebellion took the time to stuff their pockets with some of the very tea leaves that they proceeded to steep in Boston Harbor that on that fateful December day in 1773.

You’d probably be safe in saying that the Boston Tea Party was not specifically about tea, but the role of this perennially popular beverage is, nonetheless, inextricably entwined with the event. So whether you’re looking to gain a greater understanding of American history circa the late 1700s or you’re looking to glean information about tea drinking and culture in this era, Defiance of the Patriots will probably have something to offer.

Don’t miss William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

[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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