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The Tea that shook the world.

The largest cup of tea ever prepared was in Boston by the British colonists on the 16th December 1773. Although this fact is not noted in the Guinness Book of Records, it is still worth a mention. Used for the preparation of this ‘Boston Tea’ were 342 crates of tea,  worth 9.659 pounds sterling, which was a huge sum for the times, and an entire bay (in the sea), was needed as the tea cup. The bay used was the one on which Boston is located, together with its port, which was in its time the most important port in New England.

The background of the whole incident was financial. England wanted to force its colony to purchase a huge amount of Indian tea, collect a huge tax, and along with this the East India Company would collect such huge concessions that it would damage the tea trade carried out by the colonists. After some other similar legal acts that nearly lead to their ruin, this manipulation finally stretched the patience of the colonists. After some attempts at stopping the unloading, some stalling for time by the governor, the day before the announced interference by the army, colonists dressed as Indians came aboard all three ships of the Company simultaneously and threw contents of all the crates overboard. This is shown in the illustration from those times. However, the picture does not fully illustrates how it all really happened. At the time, the only way of transporting tea by sea was in the form of ‘tea bricks’, as has been mentioned in a previous note. The illustration, however, shows tea leaves being poured into the sea. The dress of the perpetrators also deserves comment. The rebels were dressed as Mohawk Indians armed with tomahawks.

The situation is best depicted by the next illustration. It shows an Indian waving his weapons around, but the crates of tea are being thrown overboard in full daylight. The incident actually happened in the evening, and tea bricks were thrown overboard, not entire crates. The next day, there was no need for army interference, and the colonists sailed around the bay in their boats, breaking up the bricks to ensure that they would sink. For days afterwards, heaps of tea leaves would wash up on the shore of the bay. Throughout the whole operation, peace was kept, looting did not break out, and none of the crew were attacked. Furthermore, any colonists that were caught hiding any tea bricks were chased away, and even mauled by the eye-witnesses.

In the evening, the whole affair was finished by 9 PM, the proud ‘Indians’ – ‘Sons of Liberty’, with their tomahawks and axes on their shoulders, to the sound of pipes, marched proudly under the window of the residence where from the British Admiral Montague was observing the events. He yelled as they past, "Well boys, you have had a fine, pleasant evening for your Indian caper, haven't you? But mind, you have got to pay the fiddler yet!". But this was in the times when Admirals talked to people in normal terms.

The Boston tea had a very important psychological meaning. It was an explosive point, and created a situation of no return. The colonists made it clear that they would no longer pay taxes to the greedy motherland, they decided to boycott tea, which they loved, and the British decided to teach them a lesson. And so, step by step, Boston 'tea waves' spread among the colonists, until it eventually culminated in the Independence of the United States of America. (4.7.1776)

The world would be an entirely different place, if it was not for the largest cup of tea ever made. In the collections of the American Antiquarian Society there remains a small flask of Boston Tea, but one does have reservation as to the authenticity of the specimen. Eye-witnesses and participants in the events talk of tea bricks, but this looks more like standard Chinese or Indian tea.  This is the way it often goes with history.




© (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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