How to counterfeit tea: a guide for ruthless dealers in the 18th century

Let’s imagine you are a dealer of tea in London during the 18th century. Over the past decades, tea, once the luxury product for the super-rich, has reached the middle and lower classes. It is highly popular. This means a large target group for your product, but also a higher demand that must be met in times of war, trade embargos and economic depression. Tea leaves are expensive and there are heavy duties on it payable to government.
In short: Times are rough, life is hard – it thus seems rather pardonable to find ways to enrich yourself by certain methods one might call imitating tea (‘counterfeit’ is such a harsh word). Nobody will ever find out, and of course, you don’t mean to harm anyone. Plus, you are doing a favour to the lower classes that would not be able to enjoy a nice cup of tea at all if they had to pay the prices for genuine tea. Right?
Now, let’s see how tea was be imitated in the 18th century …

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Smuggling Moonshine

Brandy, tea, salt – these products are famed-famous as objects of smuggling in the 18th century. Did you know that Scottish whisky was an object of the illegal trade, especially between 1780 – 1823? Whisky was called ‘moonshine’ then, as it was illicitly produced at night in small cottages in the Highlands, and secretly transported by smugglers to harbours for further distribution.

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How to cheat at Whist in the 18th century

Gaming table in a country house. Would you hve dared to play Whist with strangers?

Whist was one of the most popular card games in Georgian England. It began its career as a plain game for common men. With the rise of the coffee houses in London, the gentry picked up the game. Reputedly it was Lord Folkestone who brought the game into fashion in high society around 1728, when he adopted it as a challenging strategic card game requiring good memory, sympathetic partnering and psychological acumen.

The rules of Whist were written down in Edward Hoyle’s “ A short treatise on the game of whist” in 1742. As early as this, methods of cheating were discussed. While Hoyle advocated fair play, the stakes at Whist could be high, and thus tempt many to force luck their way. Besides, cheating at whist is very easy. Continue reading