In American history, one hears of the Boston Tea Party where the rebel colonists threw chests of tea delivered from England into the harbor. What kind if tea was available back in the 18th century? Was it like tea today? Black or green?
Whatever the British supplied, and Great Britain was the sole source for tea in the colonies until the American Revolution. Alone among the UK’s former colonies, the American colonies began our habit of preferring to drink coffee instead. As noted, China sold the British only second-rate tea leaves pressed into dried bricks to endure the long sea voyages. Until the mid-1800s foreign traders were forbidden to live in China itself, and only allowed temporary access through restricted areas of a few cities, mainly Canton. Hence the real pleasure of tea was not widely known until after the so-called Opium War forced open Chinese ports and cities. Both the British and the Dutch introduced tea plantations into India, Malaysia, and Indonesia as an alternate–and cheaper– source of supply. China sold tea only for silver, and Europe couldn’t long afford the strain on its silver reserves.