As Independence Day approaches, we find ourselves at the crossroads of a new kind of revolution where we are reinventing what it means to be "American." Equality, oppression, the pursuit of happiness and liberty, all remain central themes as they were at the onset of the American Experiment. But it is not so well known that tea played a key role in kicking off the American Revolution; moreover taxes on tea. Remember hearing "taxation without representation?" Part of that is rooted in the Tea Act, which was passed by the British Parliament on May 10th, 1773.
The act didn't actually raise taxes on tea coming into the American Colonies, but it did undercut American merchants and damage their business. It made it easier for the diabolical British East India Company to sell its tea directly to the colonies, effectively cutting out the intermediaries who were often American merchants. Needless to say, they were not too happy.
We've written about the British East India Company before, and if you've read our blogs you know that we aren't their biggest fan. The British East India Company, (EIC for short), was literally an evil enterprise that conquered and subjugated entire populations to produce goods for the British market. India was a colony that was in many ways completely controlled by the EIC. The company also started the infamous Opium Wars in China, and to top it all off, they gave Yaupon its horrible botanical name, Ilex vomitoria. Read more about that mess here.
William Aiton, royal botanist at Kew Gardens, was responsible for giving Yaupon its icky botanical misnomer. He is also linked to the EIC.
The EIC's idea was always to crush the competition at all costs, and squeeze as much profit out of everything they could. It didn't matter how many people they had to kill or enslave, as long as the dough kept rolling in. But, back the Tea Act!
The Tea Act was passed for a simple reason, and that was to help the EIC get out of debt by unloading 17 million pounds of unsold tea they had just lying around. Selling their tea directly to the colonists would open up a lucrative market, but it also cut the American merchants out of the deal. The situation escalated when colonists sent the EIC ships back to England and refused to offload their tea. From November to December in 1773, three EIC ships loaded with tea arrived in Boston Harbor. The Chief Justice of Massachusetts refused to let the ships return to England until the tea could be unloaded. On December 16, 1773, a group known as the Sons of Liberty dressed in Mohawk costume and dumped 343 chests of EIC tea into the harbor. The British government responded harshly with a series of aggressions that culminated in the American Revolution. The rest, as they say, is history!
In some ways, big business hasn't changed much since the EIC days. It seems most large corporations are still primarily concerned with squeezing the most profit out of everything, damn the consequences. We are not cool with that. We promise you that our Yaupon will always come from a supply chain that is organic, transparent, and grown in the USA. Our workers will always earn a dignified living wage and be treated fairly. Our company will always respect the indigenous origins of Yaupon and support indigenous people. Thank you for supporting the American Yaupon Tea Revolution!
This Independence day, why not drink some of our American Yaupon Tea? What a great way to celebrate the birthday of America, with a nice cuppa.
Yaupon tea was once worshipped as a sacred gift from the god of purity, used as a daily drink, leveraged as the go-to medicinal plant, and carried for hundreds of miles in a vast trade network by Native Americans throughout the United States.
Yaupon tea has since been trashed and forgotten in the modern world, but it was not an accident (dun dun DUNN! The plot thickens)... the demise of American tea was planned and orchestrated in England in 1789. I’m not a historian by training, but I would argue that killing Yaupon (commercially) changed the course of the British Empire, financed the English industrial revolution, and cost 6 million African slaves their lives. Here’s how it all happened...
While we market our organic Yaupon Holly as a tea, it is not actually tea. The tea plant, (Camellia sinensis), is a separate plant species that originated in China. Tea is now grown all over the world, but it is difficult or impossible to grow in most parts of the United States.
Yaupon, on the other hand, is native to the United States from Texas to Florida and on to Virginia. Like the tea plant, Yaupon naturally contains caffeine in its leaves. It is the only caffeinated plant species native to the United States. Yaupon has been consumed as a food, medicine, and ceremonial item by indigenous people for at least 8,000 years.