[caption id="attachment_20337" align="aligncenter" width="600"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2018\/04\/DSC_1289.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="452" class="size-full wp-image-20337" \/> Photo by Laura Dean Bennett<br \/>We may drink tea out of mugs and on the run most days, but it's nice to "put on the dog," bring out the china and crystal and lay a fancy table for company. Setting a table for tea reminds us of why our ancestors thought so much of this ritual. A strawberry cake served on Lenox and Wedgwood china beside dainty handmade napkins, tastes wonderful paired with a simple black tea poured from a Friendly Village tea pot. Whether it's brewed the "real" way \u2013 from loose tea \u2013 or from tea bags, tea always hits the spot. Add a spoonful of sugar and a dash of milk and you have the real nectar of the gods. Historical, traditional and sensually appealing \u2013 the tea table is an example of hospitality at its finest.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nLaura Dean Bennett\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nBefore and during the American Revolution, many tavern signs were made with a political statement in mind, but the whimsical sign of the The Tea Kettle and Tabby Cat in Wenham, Massachusetts, seems innocent enough, unless one believes that 18th century cats were secretly on the side of the rebels.\r\n\r\nNo matter what the occasion \u2013 welcoming company, a persistent chill, a terrible fright, good news or bad \u2013 a hot cup of tea is just the thing to make everything better.\r\n\r\nThese days, we usually serve our tea in big mugs and, more often than not, we even brew it in the microwave. Quelle\u00a0horreur!\u00a0\r\n\r\nBut once upon a time, not so long ago, we drank our tea out of a fragile china cup set inside a dainty saucer.\u00a0\r\nAh, the good old days!\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s when tea kettles whistled on the back of the stove, and tea was brewed in a tea pot.\r\n\r\nMost homes had an \u201ceveryday\u201d tea pot and some had a fancy one \u201cfor company.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nWe originally got the idea to pour tea from decorative tea pots \u2013 and the tea itself \u2013 from China.\r\n\r\nAnd no matter how tastes and styles have changed over the centuries, tea, the \u201cChina drink,\u201d has remained the most universally popular beverage around the world \u2013 with coffee being a close second.\r\n\r\nBesides being a necessary start to every morning, an unfailing conversation starter and a meaningful social ritual in some cultures, tea has a rich history.\r\n\r\nThe tea trade opened up commerce between Asia and Europe and made countless men rich.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAnd in the history of the American colonies and, later, the upstart new nation that they formed, tea played a starring role.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMany historians agree that\u00a0a Dutch trader named Peter Stuyvesant brought the first tea to America.\r\n\r\nHe began supplying colonists in the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (later re-named New York by the English) in 1650.\u00a0\r\nThe Dutch, like the English, were confirmed tea drinkers.\u00a0\r\n\r\nYears later, when they acquired the colony, the English discovered that the small colony of New Amsterdam actually consumed more tea at that time then all of England put together.\u00a0\r\n\r\nA few privileged English colonists in Boston were brought tea by visitors from England beginning in 1670, but it was not available for sale to the public until 20 years later.\u00a0\r\n\r\n<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2018\/04\/DSC_1304.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="485" class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-20338" \/>\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_20348" align="aligncenter" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2018\/04\/IMG_9702.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="287" class="size-full wp-image-20348" \/> Cornish, New Hampshire\u2019s tea room, The Tea Tray, sign, painted in the 1920s, by famous artist Maxfield Parrish.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nSpecial gathering places called \u201ctea gardens\u201d were opened around the natural springs in New York City.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe city fathers had equipped the springs with pumps to facilitate the tea craze and many people started calling the tea gardens, \u201ctea springs.\u201d\r\n\r\nBy 1720, tea was a primary, and lucrative source of trade between England and her American colonies.\r\n\r\nThe tea trade was heaviest in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, future centers of the American rebellion.\u00a0\r\n\r\nLike most of his fellow colonists, Dr. Samuel Johnson was a confirmed tea drinker.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIn 1757, he described himself and his tea-drinking habit by saying that he was \u201c... a hardened and shameless tea-drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.\u201d\r\n\r\nAmerica was not going to give up its tea.\r\n\r\nEngland knew this, so the taxes on tea were high.\r\n\r\nIt was probably inevitable that a thriving contraband tea market sprang up.\r\n\r\nThe directors of the powerful East India Company were not happy to see their profits diminish, and they insisted that Parliament take action.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhich it did.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_20347" align="alignleft" width="400"]<img src="https:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2018\/04\/IMG_9698.jpg" alt="" width="400" height="239" class="size-full wp-image-20347" \/> As it was in England, tea was a favorite drink in the American colonies. In a symbolic, and daring gesture, to protest high taxes in the "Tea Act," about 50 members of The Sons of Liberty boarded three ships carrying tea from England and emptied 963 chests of tea \u2013 9,659 pounds sterling worth of Darjeeling \u2013 into the Boston harbor on December 16, 1773. Many were disguised, although not very convincingly, as Mohawk Indians. Famous rebel leaders like Samuel Adams and John Hancock took part.[\/caption]\r\n\r\nFrom England\u2019s point of view, they had just fought the French and Indian War to free the American colonies from French influence and to stabilize trade.\r\n\r\nParliament believed that it was not unreasonable to expect the American colonists to bear the majority of the cost of that war, as it\u00a0had been fought for their benefit.\r\n\r\nThey imposed higher taxes on not only tea, but colonial newspapers (considered to be too opinionated anyway), tavern licenses (way too much free speech emanating from those establishments), legal documents, marriage licenses, and docking papers.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe colonists rebelled against the taxes, which they reasoned were imposed without their consent.\r\n\r\nParliament levied heavier taxes as a punishment for such rebelliousness.\r\n\r\nThe Sugar Act and Stamp Act also provoked the ire of rum drinkers and tavern owners, but\u00a0the June 1767 Tea Tax became the straw that broke the camel\u2019s back.\r\n\r\nThe colonists rebelled and openly purchased untaxed blackmarket Dutch tea.\r\n\r\nThe East India Company, which was already in serious financial trouble, saw its profits continue to fall even further until it had to merge with the John Company in 1773.\r\n\r\nThe newly-formed company pleaded with the Crown and Parliament for assistance.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe new Lord of the Treasury, Lord North, thought that he had a solution to the problem.\r\n\r\nHe proposed the Tea Act of 1773, which granted to the new company, permission to sell directly to the colonists, bypassing the colonial merchants and innkeepers and pocketing the difference in price.\r\n\r\nEngland was counting on an upswing in the English tea market, betting on the well-known passion that American colonists, particularly American women, had for tea.\r\n\r\nIt was a major miscalculation.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMerchants, leading citizens and colonial women joined with patriots who were still trying to make a point to England about their tea tax.\r\n\r\nIn many colonies, women pledged at public meetings and in newspapers not to drink English tea until the free tea trade was restored.\r\n\r\nOn December 16, 1773, about 50 members of the political organization, The Sons of Liberty, boarded three ships in Boston Harbor, which were carrying tea cargo from England.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMany were disguised, although not very convincingly, as Mohawk Indians. Famous rebel leaders like Samuel Adams and John Hancock took part.\r\n\r\nThey emptied all 963 chests of tea found aboard the three ships \u2013 9,659 pounds sterling worth of Darjeeling \u2013\u00a0into the harbor.\r\n\r\nEngland retaliated.\r\n\r\nThe port of Boston was closed and the city occupied by British troops.\r\n\r\nThe situation went from bad to worse, as Boston saw riots, casualties and deaths on both sides.\r\n\r\nShortly thereafter, patriots from all of the colonies met and revolution was declared.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIn great part, due to a tax on tea.\r\n\r\nBrave tavern and inn keepers whose sympathies \u2013 whether with the British or the rebels \u2013 would occasionally allow their bias to be reflected by the choice of name, paint colors, animal or symbol that would appear on their signs.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMany tea rooms adopted names that began with the words \u201cAt the Sign of...\u201d\u00a0\r\n\r\nFor instance, \u00a0\u201cAt the Sign of the Green Kettle\u201d or \u201cAt the Sign of the Golden Robin.\u201d\r\n\r\nAfter the Revolutionary War, and into the 19th century, women, particularly those New Englanders who traced their ancestry to colonial times, became interested in collecting American antiquities.\u00a0\r\n\r\nNewly possible coach, and later, train travel encouraged them to purchase former taverns tucked into little spots in the countryside.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThey began a resurgence in their fascination with tea time.\u00a0\r\n\r\nEntrepreneurial women began to open tea rooms that celebrated Early America, many with names and signs from their original tavern days.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt was as though the taverns had returned \u2013 respectable now, without liquor and drunkenness.\u00a0\r\n\r\nTea, after all, was known as \u201cthe cup that cheers but does not inebriate.\u201d\r\n\r\nA hundred years later, in the late 19th century, tea rooms and tea houses were still considered the ladies\u2019 equivalent of a tavern \u2013 a gathering place for female company.\r\n\r\nUntil the 1940s, Americans drank about the same amount of black and green tea \u2013 about 40 percent each \u2013 with oolong tea accounting for the remaining 20 percent.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBut during World War II, the two major sources of green tea \u2013 China and Japan \u2013 were cut off from the U.S.\r\n\r\nThis meant that tea from British-controlled India became the only supply, and since India produced nearly all black tea, Americans came out of the war drinking about 99 percent black tea.\r\n\r\nIn recent decades, we\u2019ve become more adventurous tea drinkers \u2013 developing a taste for more exotic teas as well as herbal teas.\r\n\r\nWhat is better on a spring morning than a cup of tea? Or a rainy summer evening, a chilly fall day or a snowy winter dawn, for that matter?\r\n\r\nI really do love a cup of tea above all other beverages, and if it is too warm for hot tea, I\u2019ll take a tall cold glass of sweet tea.\r\n\r\nCheers!