The Other Outlander Bracer: Tea

August 7, 2013 in Creating The 18th Century, Feast or Famine, On White Wings: Traveling on the Tall Ships, Outlandish Recipes of the 18th century, Uncategorized by M C

Last Night 3 Cargoes of Bohea Tea were emptied into the Sea. This is the most magnificent Movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last Effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire. —John Adams diary entry from December 17, 1773

While whiskey is Claire’s bracer of choice Outlander is awash in strong cups of good tea.  Since we have an authentic recipe for sourdough bread c. 1790 and jam, we’ll need tea to go with them, no?

 Tea from Outlander to Dragonfly in Amber with a nod to The Custom of the Army

The tea you’ll have available to you, in the 18th century, will depend on which side of the ocean you’re on, and where you are in the 18th century.  During the 1700s all tea came from China or Japan, mostly China.  Tea was imported by the East India Company, hence the occasional description of tea as “Indian” but tea production in India doesn’t begin until the 1820s, when two Scots, the brothers Robert and Charles Bruce, begin propagating Assam in India.  So your tea most likely will come from China, and in the early part of the century have come through secondary markets, purchased from Chinese merchants in India or through the Dutch, with the English merchants being both ignorant and likely not interested in the nuances of Chinese tea production.  While the Chinese graded their tea by geography, then preparation, and finally by quality, English tea traders preferred to distinguish teas based on color and appearance.  But as the English start to trade directly with China, and tastes start to mature, English merchants become more discerning, with greater varieties of teas being described and imported.  In the 1720s Thomas Twining was selling ‘pekoe’ and the Encyclopedia Britannica (published by Scots!) of 1797 subdivides tea into three types of green and five types of bohea.(1)

Your choices for tea (in Great Britain, 1779) are:
Imperial or bloom tea
, with a large loose leaf, light green colour, and a faint delicate smell.
Gunpowder Green TeaHyson Tea, so called from the name of the merchant who first imported it; the leaves of which are closely curled and small, of a green colour, verging to a blue.
Singlo tea, from the name of the place where it is cultivated
Gunpowder Leaf Tea, done up in round, greenish balls.

Souchong , which imparts a yellow green colour by infusion.
Lapsang Souchong Teaem>Camho, so called form the place where it is made; a fragrant tea, with a violet smell; its infusion pale.
Congo[congou], which has a larger leaf than the following, and its infusion somewhat deeper, resembling common bohea in the colour of the leaf.
Pekoe tea: this is known by the appearance of small, white flowers mixed with it.
Common bohea, whose leaves are of one colour. (1)

Try Adagio Teas, which offers free shipping with $25 Purchase as another online source for teas.

The Custom of the Army

Tea, at the time Lord John is storming Quebec City, is also an integral part of the French culture.  Following the seizure of Quebec City by the British the governor of New France, Pierre de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnial, begged the French King for supplies and re-enforcements.  Unlike the British system of colonization, which encouraged agriculture and a certain amount of industry, the French colonized through trade.  The citizens of New France were considerably more dependent on regular supplies from the home country than were their British counterparts to the south.  So by the time Lord John is leaving New France, the French are truly desperate for supplies.

Five merchant ships loaded with 2000 casks of provisions and 400 troops  were dispatched to New France in 1760. escorted by the frigate Le Machault.  Unfortunately for the beleaguered French of New France, none of them made it.  Two were seized by the British off the coast of France, one ran aground in the Azores, and the Machault and two remaining merchant ships found, when they arrived at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that the British were already in Quebec.

The three ships retreated to the Restigouche River where they were blocked in by the British.  Lieutenant Francois La Giraudais, captain of the Le Machault, moved the three ships upriver, hoping the deeper drafted British ships couldn’t follow.  They did.  And on July 8 he scuttled Le Machault and Bienfaisant to prevent them falling into British hands.  The third ship was spared because it carried prisoners in the hold.

Happily for us, Le Machault was rediscovered in 1969 and underwent a major recovery effort.  In the cargo was found everything from barrels of salt pork to 500 virtually identical shoes.  Amid the clothing items which survived were two socks (mismatched) and the Machault cap, also known as a Voyageur, will be the focus of another foray into recreating the 18th century.  But nothing says “badly needed supplies” like two barrels of Chinese export porcelain tea sets.

Continue with.. Tea in Outlander: Drums of Autumn to Boston Harbor.. >> 

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