Journey to Boston: Where America Begins
This past week I was blessed with a visit to Boston, Massachusetts. It is a great city with three hundred and eighty-six years of history, making it one of the oldest cities in the United States. In this three-part series, I will share some to the highlights of my three days wandering the streets of Boston. Each will feature a place or two that I visited and one meal. Come join me on the journey.
Part One: Ships and Tea Parties
Boston is really where the story of the United States begins. It was the home of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams and Paul Revere. Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, though he later made his home in Philadelphia. The first shots of the American Revolution could be heard in Boston, but I’m getting ahead of myself. In the 1870’s a series of events would change a group of British colonies into a united independent nation. One of these events would become known as the Boston Tea Party. On December 16, 1773, ships, taxes, and tea collide. That night a group of young men, calling themselves the Sons of Liberty and disguise loosely as Mohawk Indians, snuck aboard three ships and dumped their cargo of East Indian Tea into the harbor. The act lead to the blockade of Boston harbor nearly starving the residence of the city. Other colonies united in support of Boston leading the way toward them working together for independence.
Due to dredging, which has enlarged the city significantly, the original location of the wharf is high and dry. Today you can visit a new pier within a few yards of the original Griffin’s Wharf, home of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.
Upon entering the “Old South Meeting Hall,” I was greeted by Benjamin Burton (played by Armando). He gave me an identity of one of the Sons of Liberty – a role I would play during the interactive program. From there, in our Mohawk disguises, we went aboard the Beaver and destroyed the tea. This was followed by a multimedia presentation about the aftermath of these events and how they produced the foundation for the unity of the colonies.
One of the highlights for me was seeing one of the two known remaining tea boxes from that night. This simple wooden cube had been saved and passed down the generation of one family. When I saw it I thought it was very much like the one I had seen at the National Portrait Gallery Washington D.C. in 1975. It actually was the same box! The Robinson Half Chest (as it is called) had been on display there before being moved to the Tea Party Ships & Museum as part of their permanent collection.
The visit didn’t end there. After the tour, Mr. Burton led the group to Abigail’s Tea Room. He introduced us to Mercy Scollay (played by Diana). In the tea room were lunch items, sweets, and tea for purchase. The tea room highlighted samples of the five teas that would have been on board the three ships that night.
With my tea cup in hand, I sampled the teas.
First up was Souchoung. Made from the older larger leaves of Camellia sinensis, they are smoked of over pinewood fire before they are fermented to make a strong black tea. It was one of the more popular teas during the colonial period. Miss Scollay warned me this was a tea that “you’ll either love or you’ll hate.” It was not like anything I had tasted before. This tea was very strong and had a smoky taste. It was like drinking barbecue.
The second was another black tea, Congou. This tea was one of the more expensive teas and was served in the more elite homes. It was full-bodied and well-balanced tea, reminding me of a very good English Breakfast.
The third was the last of the black teas, Bohur Blu. This was the least expensive of the black teas and would have been found in most homes before the passing of the 1773 Tea Tax. The taste on the bitter side and reminded me of your basic tea bag from the grocery store.
The last two teas were green teas. This surprised me. I asked Miss Scollay about this, thinking it rare for green tea to be found outside of Asia at this time. She said that the shipment on the ships destroyed during the Boston Tea Party would have been the first shipment to colonies.
The first of these green teas was Young Hyson. This tea was said to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite and that he served it at the White House during his presidency. It was a light flowery tea that reminded me of jasmine green tea.
The final tea was Singlo. Picked later in the season, when the leaves are larger, this green tea was a very strong. It reminded me the tea served in Japanese restaurants today.
After sampling the teas, I poured myself a full cup of the Congon to drink with my cranberry-orange scone. As I enjoyed my refreshments, I continued to chat with my new friends. Diana and Armando broke character to tell me about their work. They told me most of the cast were either professional actors or historians. They truly enjoyed working at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, especially with school groups come to visit. The interactive-multimedia presentation “brings the story to life, makes it real for them,” explained Armando.
I enjoyed my visit to Griffin’s Wharf. A special thank you to Diana and Armando for sharing their time and knowledge with me.
Part II: Sailors, Brownstones, and Pasta.
Part III: Trollies, Trails, and Seafood