Vol. 2, Issue 20
It may surprise you to know that green tea accounted for about 22% of the shipments’ total volume and 30% of the value. One-third of the tea exported from China in the 18th century was green tea, with spring-picked Hyson being one the favorites. The first tea plucked in the spring is always the finest, which the Chinese designated yu-tsien or before the rains tea. The English traders who bought the tea in China thought the Mandarin name of this tea sounded like the name of a wealthy East India Company director in London named Phillip Hyson, and forevermore the young spring tea took on Mr. Hyson’s more pronounceable moniker. Hyson was a favorite tea of both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Singlo green tea was picked later in the season and the leaves were a bit larger. It tended to spoil sooner than other teas and was not widely known in the colonies. It was only included in the ill-fated shipment because the East India Company had quite a bit of stock that needed to be liquidated before it became undrinkable. They wanted to introduce the tea to the colonies in hope that American’s would develop a taste for it. A few chests were aboard all seven ships which left London bound for Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston in late summer 1773.
As a native of Boston, this was a delightful read; not having lived or visited there for many years, some things are new and unfamiliar, like the museum. As a tea lover, I had no idea that they imported green tea as well; that long sea voyage couldn't have done much for the flavor, but perhaps it was a tightly-rolled variety less susceptible to oxidation and flavor loss.