Austen was born in 1775 on the second anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. She and the ladies of New England held much in common. Both Austen’s heroines and the wealthy families of Boston drank Chinese teas sourced from the East India Company’s London warehouses, and those black and green teas were steeped and consumed using tea things commonly found on both sides of the Atlantic.
Tea was seen as a comforting, refreshing, recuperative beverage. In Mansfield Park (1814), Mrs. Price welcomes Fanny and William: “Poor dears! How tired you must both be! And now what will you have? . . . I could not tell whether you would be for some meat, or only a dish of tea after your journey.”
To a visitor, tea meant rest and pleasure, and its absence would be a severe disappointment—or a snub.
In Sense and Sensibility (1811), Elinor attends a social gathering at Lady Middleton’s, eager to have a chat with Lucy, but “the insipidity of the meeting was exactly such as Elinor had expected; it produced not one novelty of thought or expression; and nothing could be less interesting than the whole of their discourse both in the dining-parlour and drawing room . . . they quitted it only with the removal of the tea things.”