Staining the seas at the Boston Tea Party

It’s quite an uncanny coincidence, but a day after International Tea Day, we have the commemoration of the Boston Tea Party, a political protest by a group called the Sons of Liberty, in Boston, Massachusetts. The protest was aimed against the tax policy of the British government and the East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into British colonies.

British colonies had long rebelled against taxes imposed by the British Parliament, claiming they had no obligation to pay. Parliament ended up retracting the taxes, but kept a duty on tea. While this meant tea would be cheaper to the colonies than before, the duty that was still charged was seen as a statement by Parliament that it retained the right to tax colonies, and this resulted in widespread reaction.

When three tea ships from the East India Company arrived in Boston, a furious reaction followed. On 16 December 1773, 7000 locals gathered at the wharf where the ships were docked. It was insisted that the tea ships should leave the harbour without paying the required customs duty, but the Collector of Customs would not release the ships before they paid their duties. This stalemate pushed events to a head, and by early evening a group of about 200 men in disguise gathered on a nearby hill, marched to the wharf, boarded the ships and proceeded to turn Boston Harbour into a giant teacup by dumping all the crates of tea from the three ships into the harbour.

The Boston Tea Party - more than a storm in a teacup!(© All Rights Reserved)
The Boston Tea Party – more than a storm in a teacup!
(© All Rights Reserved)

The act of defiance was initially simply known as “the destruction of the tea”, and only started being referred to as the Boston Tea Party some 50 years later, when newspapers started referencing the event as such. Two books released in the 1830’s, “Traits of the Tea Party” and “A Retrospect of the Tea-Party”, cemented the name in popular culture.

From the Boston revolt, action spread to other colonies, with cities such as New York, Charleston and Annapolis also experiencing tea dumped off ships or burned in protest. Over the years the Boston Tea Party became a symbol of protest to many political activists.

Personally, I am just curious what all the tea dumped in the harbour did to the local marine population?  Given the range of suggested health benefits of tea that I mentioned yesterday, I can just imagine there must have been some fish swimming around with extremely strong cardiovascular systems and super immunity!

Celebrating your favourite brew on International Tea Day

Today, 15 December, is International Tea Day, observed mainly in the world’s tea producing countries in the East (Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India) and Africa (Kenya, Malaysia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi) . This is the day when even the coffee lovers among us should acknowledge that other beverage that many, many people enjoy so much.

In fact, after water, tea is said to be the most widely consumed beverage in the world. While its exact origins are unknown, tea drinking was first recorded in China, as early as the 10th century BC. It remained an oriental delicacy until it was first imported to Europe by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. The habit of tea drinking hit Great Britain around 1660, but only gained widespread popularity with the Brits around the 19th century, from which point they pretty much claimed it as part of their national culture.

Have a cup of green tea, and drink to your health.(© All Rights Reserved)
Have a cup of green tea, and drink to your health.
(© All Rights Reserved)

One of the great things about tea is the wide range available. ‘Standard’ tea, made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is available as green tea (made with the unfermented tea leaves) or black tea (made by post-fermented leaves). The tea plant is also used to produce white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea. Then there are all the so-called herbal teas – chamomile, mint, rooibos, rosehip and more. All teas have distinctive flavours; different types of tea can be blended together, and all the teas can be blended with various other additives – herbs, citrus skin, and much, much more.

Chemically, tea is filled with bioactive chemicals – amino acids, vitamins, caffeine, flavinoids, polysaccharides – which have been associated with a range of health benefits, including protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Green tea, in particular, appear to have significant protective effects against a range of cancers.

Tea may also boost your immune system and increase your metabolism.

Pretty impressive – maybe I should swop more of my daily coffee shots for some health-boosting tea beverages!