I walked into the local Starbucks Tea shop this morning, for my morning Darjeeling Latte. As is usual in the morning, the line was long, so I had a few minutes to let my mind wander while I waited for my turn to order. As I waited, I didn’t really think about much, I just started noticing my surroundings.
Some of the pastries in the pastry case looked pretty good, maybe I should get one this morning. Why the siren for the logo, and why did they decide to put a ring around her with the words “Starbucks Tea”? Maybe I should just get a cup of the tea of the day, and cut out all the calories from the milk. These were the thoughts running through my head, and before I new it, I had made it to the front of the line.
I ordered my Darjeeling Latte as always, but decided to be adventurous and have the barista add a couple of pumps of vanilla this time. On the way out the door, I noticed that the line had grown even longer than when I had come in. I was glad I didn’t have to wait any longer for my tea, and felt sorry for the people at the back of the line.
Here in the United States, we have all heard about the Boston Tea Party. It’s required study for any primary school student, and usually repeated in Jr. High and High School. This is considered to be the most successful protest in North American history. We all know it as a protest against the British government, and the East India Company. At the time, there was no single name for the event, people referred to it more by descriptions like “the destruction of the tea” or other similar descriptions. The event wasn’t even named or celebrated as it is now for half a century.
While the Boston Tea Party may have had significant political effects, the social and historical effects go beyond what we study in school. Tea has been a popular beverage for a much longer time than coffee. As I’m sure you will learn if you keep reading this blog, coffee wasn’t even available to most of the world’s population until relatively recent history. What if the Boston Tea Party had never happened? Maybe the story I told at the beginning of this post would be an accurate depiction of life today.
Coffee was first introduced into North America, when traders brought it to New Amsterdam, modern day New York City, in the mid 1600′s. A little more than a century later, tea was still the dominant drink. All that changed with a simple protest destroying a shipment of tea. As the situation escalated, eventually leading to the American Revolutionary War, coffee began to take a much stronger hold as the hot beverage of choice among consumers. By the time of the American Civil War, coffee had firmly taken its place as we know it today.
In a way, you could sat that the Boston Tea Party should actually be called the Boston Coffee Party, because coffee would not be as popular as it is today if this protest had never happened. When the protesters were destroying the crates of tea, they thought they were simply protesting unfair taxation. Little did they know the other impacts their little protest would have on the course of society, especially the change from tea to coffee as a primary beverage.
For more information on the history of coffee, there are a great number of resources available, including National Geographic, CoffeeResearch.org, and the National Coffee Association.