Infused in History: A Tea Exhibit
I am pleased to be working with the Smith McDowell House Museum here in Asheville,North Carolina on an exhibit titled “Infused in History: A Tea Exhibit.” The exhibit, which opens on April 24 will feature vignettes from tea history, along with lovely artifacts such as silver tea sets, Wedgewood tea cups, and Meissen tea cups. Some of the artifacts on display come from the collection of the Smith McDowell House Museum. Others are on loan to the museum for the duration of the exhibit.
The information panels to be on display in each room of the house have been written by a diverse group of people who are interested in tea history and culture. Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas has served as the historical consultant for the exhibit. Contributors to the exhibit include:
Kym Brown of A Southern Cup Fine Teas, Hendersonville, North Carolina
Lynn Karegeannes of My Life With Tea Blog, Asheville, North Carolina
Sara Shacket of Tea Happiness Blog, Brooklyn, New York
Sara Stender of 3 Mountains and Tima Tea, Asheville, North Carolina
Jennifer Stowe of The Three Sisters’ Tearoom, Campbellsville, Tennessee
Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Café & Kitchen, Asheville, North Carolina
Here is an information overview for the exhibit:
Tea was introduced to America in the 1640s, approximately two hundred years before the Smith-McDowell House was built. Tea was brought to the American colonies by the Dutch. In the 1600s and 1700s tea was sourced from China first by the Dutch and then British East India Companies. It became an established fixture in early American upper-class households. In this era, it was an expensive, luxury product and out of reach of the common American colonist.
Historical events affected the consumption of tea in the colonies. For example, the Tea Act of 1773 imposed by King George III raised the price of tea and caused a sharp decline in tea drinking for both economic and political reasons.
Tea consumption in America increased once again after the War of Independence as American merchants imported tea directly from China. By the mid-1800s, merchants in the United States were importing tea from newly-established gardens in India. By the century’s end, America was drinking green tea from Japan and black tea from the island of Ceylon as well.
Tea drinking remained primarily an upper class habit in the early 1800s. The residents of the Smith McDowell House, well off themselves, were certainly influenced by tea’s popularity among their economic class in that time. By the century’s end, tea had become more readily available to all social and economic classes in this country, and no doubt continued to be a fixture in the parlors of this historic home.