History of Tea In America

Posted by Siobhan Nasby on

History of Tea In America

History of Tea In America


In the year 1640 tea was introduced to the America’s by the Dutch, and quickly became a staple in upper society households in what was known then as New Amsterdam.  The upper social classes already were the proud owners of expensive porcelain teapots, bowls, saucers, and tea trays.  By 1664 New Amsterdam was now known as New York, having been taken over by the British who also had a rich tradition of tea being a staple part of their daily ritual.  During this period England had a monopoly on the shipment of teas coming out of Asia, due to their control of the British East India Company.

By the year 1773 the British colonies were in the middle of the fight for their independence.  Not only were they rebelling for their freedom but they were also rebelling over the recent taxes imposed on tea.  King George III implemented heavy taxes on tea with the Tea Act of 1773, leading to the famous night of the Boston Tea Party.  Following America’s success in the war they began traveling directly to the source, sailing in and out of Canton.  During this period American’s were drinking Hyson (green tea) and Bohea (black tea), both of which come from the Fujian province.  With the US forcing Japan to open its sea-side ports for trade with the west came the US’s introduction to Japanese green teas, furthering the American palette even more.  Once 1880 came around, 47% of all tea imported into the United States came from Japan, with the remainder coming from China.  Asia’s distinct flavors and traditions of tea continued to play a large role in American consumption.

The tradition of an Afternoon Tea not only took off in England but America too, with America’s upper society women loving the ritual of entertaining their inner circle in a sophisticated setting. The earliest record of how to host the perfect Afternoon Tea for an American audience debuted in 1847 by Mrs. T. J. Crowen, The American System of Cookery. Not only did the Americans have a different taste in tea, but their menus differed largely from the standard British Afternoon Tea.  It was common to find more savory dishes such as Cheese Toast/Straws, Lobster Cutlets, Caviar Toast, Crab Croquettes, and Tomatoes Stuffed with Cress.  This is still common in the US today with American Afternoon Tea serving a range of soups, savories, and much sweeter miniature desserts than their English counterparts.

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