A Tea Party in Boston

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12236

Parties can sometimes get a little out of hand, but this one helped start a war! Government control can also get out of hand. Read about the Boston Tea Party and form your own opinion about its cause!


United States

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

A tea party sounds like a friendly, gentle affair.

  • Why would patriots disguise themselves before breaking the law and pouring British tea into the Boston Harbor?

Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor

  • What is your favorite food or beverage?

Visualize that food or drink in your mind and think about how delicious it tastes. Then, consider how you would feel if the government suddenly raised the price of that item, making it difficult for you to afford it.

This scenario occurred in the colonies in 1773, and the city of Boston did not respond favorably to the new law.

Tea was one of England's most popular beverages, making it popular in the British colonies. Nearly all British citizens, including the colonists, consumed tea daily.

The average British citizen drank 300 cups of tea annually. It is estimated the colonists consumed around 1,000,000 pounds of tea per year!

A fashionable gentleman taking morning tea with a lady in her boudoir: a maidservant stands in the background.

Even before the British government began heavily taxing the colonies, the tax on tea was high. Illegal Dutch tea was often smuggled into the colonies to make tea more affordable for all colonists because it could be sold at a cheaper price.

Illegally bringing tea into the colonies hurt the East India Company, a British company that bought, sold, and traded goods from Asia. At the time, most tea leaves needed for making tea came from Asia. It is estimated tea accounted for up to 10% of British revenue during the mid-1700s.

After years of the colonies smuggling tea, the East India Company had an excess of tea leaves rotting in warehouses, hurting financially.

The Tea Act sought to help the British economy, or wealth, by giving the East India Company control of the tea trade in the colonies. It was passed by Parliament — the British government — in 1773 and gave the East India Company exclusive rights to sell tea in the colonies.

No longer would the colonists be able to smuggle Dutch tea into the colonies, which significantly increased the price of tea.

The Tea Act outraged the colonists because many could no longer afford their favorite beverage, and it was another example of the British government exerting its power over the colonies.

  • How would you have responded to the situation?
  • Do you think the British were justified in passing the Tea Act?
  • Discuss your opinions with your teacher or parent.

Some colonists decided to take matters into their own hands to protest the Tea Act and how the British government treated them.

The Sons of Liberty was a secretive group of patriots who opposed the British. They often took extreme and violent measures to protest British rule.

Sons of Liberty outside the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston, 1828

Sons of Liberty groups could be found in all 13 colonies, but the most well-known group was located in Boston, Massachusetts.

On the night of December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty led a group of more than 100 men onto three East India Company ships docked in the Boston Harbor. They disguised themselves as Mohawk Native Americans, knowing they would face painful consequences and possibly even death if caught.

Together, they dumped 342 crates of tea into the harbor, resulting in thousands of pounds, like dollars in British money, in lost tea sales for the British East India Company. In today’s money (2017), the revenue lost by the Boston Tea Party is estimated to be around $1,700,000.

  • Do you think the Sons of Liberty’s response to the Tea Act was appropriate?

Move on to the Got It? section to review what you have learned with a quiz.

Image - Button Next