Tea–a seemingly insignificant plant has played a major role in our state’s and our country’s history.
No tea was dumped in Portsmouth harbor. In July 1773 Souchon and Hyson tea were frequently on the ship’s manifests arriving at Portsmouth and other New Hampshire harbors.
On December 10th 1773, six days before the “Boston Tea Party,” the New-Hampshire Gazette reported on the arrival in Boston of Capt. Bruce, “having on board a Quantity of the detestable Article of Tea.” On December 16, 1773, the same day as the Boston Tea Party, at a meeting of the freeholders and other inhabitants of the town, held at the North Meeting House in Portsmouth, with Samuel Hale Esq. as moderator, the townspeople of Portsmouth resolved that “in Case any of the Company’s Tea should be brought into this Port, in order for Sale, we will use every necessary Method to prevent its being landed or sold here.”
Remarkably, this resolve also stated, “That the Power given by Parliament to the East India Company, to send out their Teas to the Colonies, subjected to the Payment of Duties, on being landed here, is a plain Attempt to enforce the Ministerial Plan, and a direct Attack upon the Liberties of America, and that it is the indispensible Duty of all true hearted Americans to render this Effort abortive.”
After Boston’s famous tea event, when Boston’s Port Bill of June 1774 effectively closed that port, New Hampshire’s residents were among those who sent foodstuffs to aid “beleaguered Boston.” (when the British refused to allow imports into the city).
Colonial New Hampshire women met at local homes and organized what became a campaign to ban English tea from their households. Although consuming a great deal of tea at that time, New Hampshire’s residents were determined not to drink it any further. Instead they used alternative “Liberty Teas.” These included Labrador tea (from the Red Root bush that few along New England riverbanks), Ever Green tea (made from evergreen needles), New Jersey tea (from Ceanothus americanus), Indian Lemonade Tea (using red sumac berries), Raspberry Leaf tea, and teas made from herb garden flavors (mint family, rosehips, et al).
Without the cooperation of the ladies of New Hampshire, the switch would not have happened. This determination not to drink English tea is probably the reason we now have so many coffee drinkers in the United States.
So, the next time you have a cuppa…. remember that your refreshment is more than just a few leaves. That “detestable tea” was a rallying point for freedom.
If your group would like to have a “tea party” lesson, the Remick County Farm & Museum staff in Tamworth, New Hampshire will be happy to accomodate you. The costumes worn at this event are truly lovely. To learn more contact: Robin M. Tagliaferri Ferreira, 800-686-6117 or email email@example.com