Presidents Day and Tea

On Presidents’ Day, let’s give a shout out to Washington and Lincoln who are known for their association with tea. There are numerous references to tea when exploring Washington’s life. For example – Washington started each day with breakfast of hoecakes. Nelly Custis Lewis, Washington’s step-granddaughter, who was raised at Mount Vernon, recorded Washington’s habit of eating hoecakes for breakfast and recorded how they were made. She wrote “He rose before sunrise, always wrote or read until 7 in summer or half past seven in winter. His breakfast was then ready – he ate three small mush cakes (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey, and drank three cups of tea without cream.” There are several documents which describe his ordering various amounts of tea. In December 1757, George sent to England for his first recorded order of tea; six pounds of best Hyson tea and six pounds of best green tea.Other orders and invoices listed a variety of teas that Washington purchased, including Bohea, Congo, Green, Gunpowder, Hyson, Imperial and Young Hyson. Another source talked about when a stash of tea was discovered hidden in some woods, after the Battle of Harlem Heights. Washington personally wrote orders for its distribution to his Colonial Army officers as mentioned in this directive from 1779. …the tea is not included in the foregoing instruction, but is to be distributed as follows, reserving fifty pounds of the best quality for future disposal: one pound of the best kind to each General Officer, half a pound of the same to each field officer and head of a staff department and a quarter of a pound per man of the remainder to any other officer of the army who shall apply.

So, about Abraham Lincoln and his penchant for tea. When Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln settled in Springfield, Illinois, they often had friends and visitors join them for tea. Purchases of tea and coffee are recorded at two Springfield stores. A clerk at one of them recalled Mr. Lincoln’s often saying, “Colonel, my wife tells me we are out of tea.  Put up a pound of the best.” A silver service made by the Gorham Silver Company was gifted to the Lincoln’s during their time in the White House. The set consists of a tray, hot-water urn, coffeepot, teapot, hot-water pot, cream pitcher, sugar urn, and waste bowl. Each of the pieces was engraved on one side with the monogram “MTL” and a crest on the other. It is likely the service was presented to  them as a gift from the citizens of New York. To me the most interesting reference was when Lincoln and several of his legal colleagues from the Eighth Judicial Circuit, purchased a tea set as a wedding gift for a young woman from Clinton Illinois.  Lincoln carried it in his saddlebag and presented it to her at her home.

So, honor the first president, the first and third presidents, the first and 16th presidents, or all presidents and enjoy a cup of tea!

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