What is the origin of English breakfast tea? Since there is no tea grown in England, where does English breakfast tea come from? Is it of Indian or Chinese origin?
The answer to all these questions can be found in an old article written by some E.N.L. in the Journal of Commerce. As it turns out the English Breakfast Tea was invented, of all places, in New York.
"English breakfast tea was never known either in this county or in England before the year 1843. Its fabricator was Richard Davies, who commenced the first "tea company," so called, which was located in Chatham street, a few doors above Pearl, its title, Canton Tea company. He applied to the firm of which I was the junior member for a stock of tea. He had only $150 and wanted credit for as much more. He was a stranger in the city, having recently arrived from Hull, England, where he had been an apothecary. He proposed to put up his teas in quarters, halves and pounds, enveloping the tea in tin foil with an exterior fancy wrapper and labeled on the end, making the packages square in a mold. Being a stranger and having no friends in the city he was unable to furnish any references. However, we had a talk with him and concluded to let him have a credit of $150, thus furnishing him with a small stock of $300 worth of teas and a few bags of coffee. We made the credit a condition that he should act as agent, not purchase elsewhere, and sell for cash only, and bring down his weekly receipts in cash every Saturday.
"He carried out his stipulation to the letter. His receipts at first were, of course, insignificant, but they increased very rapidly after a few months. His coffees were roaster every day and were put up in the same style as his teas, labeled in square neat packages, and the quality was always uniform. His sales rapidly increased, and our firm, finding him a valuable customer, made it an object to furnish him with a uniform quality of teas suitable to his trade, my partner being one of the best judges of teas in the New York market, and always attending the regular trade sales conducted by Messrs. L. M. Hoffman & Co., Austen Wilmerding & Co., and Haggerty, Draper & Jones, made it an object to purchase teas especially for the tea company. We desiring to do justice to this desirable customer sold him all his teas at 2 cents a pound advance on the trade sale price ĘC we having in addition six months' credit on our purchases, while receiving cash from him.
"In 1843 Davies desired to get up a new mixture, which he intended to label English breakfast tea, and, after experimenting on the various flavored teas, finally settled on congou as a base, adding a trifle of flowery Pekoe and a particular chop of Powchong, which was then in the market. Our firm kept those ingredients very uniform in quality, and always kept samples of each to compare with the new teas offered for sale at the trade sales. The outer wrappers of the Powchong being Chinese paper, he used it to pack another mixture of a finer quality, generally of oolong. This outer wrapper was covered with Chinese characters and the mixture was called Houqua's mixture and retailed at $1 per pound, while the English breakfast tea was retailed at 50 cents per pound. The latter soon became in the greatest demand, and orders came from all parts of the surrounding country. Other retailers in the city demanded from the jobbers down town English breakfast tea, but no one could furnish it. Letters were written to London for the article, but no Englishman ever heard of such a tea.
"Finally Messrs. Gordon & Talbot, importers, who were located in Maiden lane below Front street, directed one of their customers to go to the tea company and purchase ten pounds and they would send it to China, where the inventive Chinaman could duplicate it. It was so done, and ever since the time English breakfast tea has been regularly imported in half chests. The other mixture, Houqua, did not meet with success.
"Richard Davies, after meeting with great success and being on the road to fortune, thought he could purchase at the trade sales himself, and he did so. This was the commencement of his downfall. Having separated himself from our care and advice, he launched out, established agencies all over the country, shipped goods on commission, got cheated, rapidly lost money, failed, and the last I heard from him, a few years ago, he was peddling ground coffee from house to house somewhere in New Jersey, and lately I learned of his death, very poor."
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