Tea Leaves

From the “Talking Tea with Bruce Richardson” Video Series – Episode 9

– hi, i’m Bruce Richardson tea master for the Boston Tea Party ships in museum

– one of the the problems facing eighteenth-century tea drinkers both in London and in Boston was the adulteration of tea leaves a dishonest traders on both sides of the Atlantic found ways to stretching supplies by adding such things as tree leaves to their teas.

– the problem was so widespread which made it illegal to add sloe leaves, licorice leaves or the leaves of any other plant, tree or shrub that would adulterate the tea leaf.

– tea dealers were also forbidden to color, stain or dye used tea leaves. in 1785 richard twining talked about tea adulteration or smooch in his book, “observations on tea trade.”

– I shall here communicate to the public a particular account of this manufacture which I have lately received from a gentleman who made very accurate inquiries is on the subject of making smooch with ashe leaves.

– When gathered, leaves are first dried in the sun then baked, they’re next put on the floor trod upon until the leaves are small then lifted and steamed with sheep dung after which being dried on the floor they are fit for use.

– twining suggested that in one small area of England approximately 20 tons of smooch were manufactured each year. this smooch problem was the
subject of a London magazine illustration from 1785 entitled, ‘the tea frenzy.”

– the setting is the London teashop of Phillip Hyson. Hyson lent his name to one of the five teas tossed overboard in Boston Harbor

– Hyson green tea, an early spring tea from China, which was a favorite of about Thomas jefferson and george washington. the sign above hyson’s door proudly proclaims his teas free from any deception.

– and one of his tea chests being carried to an awaiting carriage bears the words fine Hysen free from the adulteration of sloe leaves. I find it interesting that one of the characters in this tableau is quoted as saying my wife may drink tea now as cheap as the drink gin.

– after all, in the mid 1700s the average Londoner consume nearly two and one half gallon gin annually. due to his relationship with the east india company very competitive more because the consuming public knew that it was easier to adulterate green tea more and more people began to buy only
black tea.

– this may have marked the beginning of the British preference for black tea which was for decades emulated by their American cousins in boston.

– well we hope you can join us in Boston at the boston tea party ships museum where in abigail’s tearoom you too can sample Hyson green tea
free from any adulterations of course. until we see you in Boston go forth and make good tea.