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Tea and Rum: A Powerful Combination

Shawn RefouaApril 15th, 2009 by Shawn Refoua
Martini in the glass

I’ve been a bartender and mixologist in San Francisco for 8 years and am involved in running the San Francisco School of Bartending.  In my upcoming posts, we’re going to learn about how to make cocktails incorporating tea.  This post includes a recipe for a Tea Rum Cocktail.  But, first let’s start by finding out more about how the combination of tea and rum came together to play a role in inciting the American Revolution.

Most of us remember learning that the American Independence movement began with the Boston Tea Party.  Fed up the with the British imposed tea tax, in 1773 the colonists stormed onto a ship docked in Boston Harbor and dumped its tea cargo into the water. Other ports joined in on similar festivities culminating with the start of the Revolutionary War ultimately based on the premise: no taxation without representation.loose-tea-shot-1

However, most of us don’t know what discord actually led to “no taxation without representation” and even to the Boston Tea Party in the first place.  The discord between Britain and the New World did indeed begin with a tax on a beverage, but it was not tea. It was rum.  It began in 1733, forty years earlier, when the British imposed something they called the Molasses Act.

Molasses is the bi-product of refining sugar cane into fine sugar.  When old world countries such as England and France first settled the West Indies, they brought sugar cane with them from Indonesimolassesa.  They then planted the sugar cane on the islands where they found perfect conditions for the plant to thrive.

Sugar refineries were set up on the islands and refined sugar was sent back to the Old World.  At first people dumped the molasses into the ocean, but then they got smart.  Feeling a thirst and lacking the ability to grow grapes and make wine, they realized they could make a crude beer from the molasses, which they then distilled into rum.

Sugar cane and molasses were also transported to the New England States.  The colonists used molasses to make rum which they enjoyed themselves and exported to Africa to pay for slaves.  In fact, rum, not whisky, was America’s first alcoholic beverage. Whisky wasn’t introduced to the states until the late 1700’s.

With the Molasses Act of 1733 the British issued a stiff tax on molasses imported to the colonies from French sugar cane producing islands.  Although the tax was intended to support purchase of English molasses, the colonists preferred the superior quality and greater availability of French molasses.  Rum provided for a large mrum-bottleajority of the new state’s export trade. The tax infringed not only on the colonists’ pocketbooks, but also on their drinking habits. So the colonists ignored the tax and continued their purchase and use of French molasses.

This descent was the seed from which future defiance of English law would sprout.  In 1764, the English imposed the Sugar Act which made the Molasses Act more enforceable. Duties began to be collected on the sales of molasses.  Rum distilleries in the colonies organized boycotts of British imports under the banner of “no taxation without representation”, which became a popular slogan. All this occurred before the famous tea party.

So you see it was actually rum, and not tea that spurred on the Revolutionary War.  Wait, let me put it a different way, it was rum and tea.  This historic combination led to the greatest war in American History.  Don’t think that the tea and rum mixture is only effective at liberating a people. It’s also effective as a libation to be drunk by liberated people.

We can toast to our now British allies by enjoying the following recipe for a Tea Rum Cocktail.  This recipe resembles the punch that British sailors drank in the 1600’s. A recipe using tea and rum they adopted from India.

Tea Rum Cocktail

2 oz. Aged rum (smooth and mellow such as Zaya)
2 oz. Mighty Leaf Organic Breakfast Tea (brewed and cooled)
1⁄2 oz Lime juice (fresh)
1⁄2 oz. Demerara sugar (or 3/4 oz. simple syrup or maple syrup)

Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Strain into a martini glass.  Sprinkle in fresh nutmeg.

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One Response to “Tea and Rum: A Powerful Combination”

  1. Queen Victoria drank her tea with scotch whiskey. She called in Highland Tea.

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