In honor of President’s Day, we went digging around in history to figure out if any of the U.S. Presidents or their wives did something fun, historically significant or just routinely drank tea. As much as America is seen as a coffee drinking country now, the White House has seen its fair share of tea parties that have helped to shape the history of the country. So here are five US Presidential Facts involving tea.
- Thomas Jefferson drank a lot of tea according to his financial records. Based on the names, he drank an interesting variety from a tea named Imperial, to Chu-chong, congo and bohea teas. (Monticello, 2016)
- First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is known for having redefined the role of the First Lady in both the entertaining that occurred at the White House as well as spear heading other issues that were outside of the President’s focus. Mrs. Kennedy did her first entertaining at the White House using afternoon teas, within days of moving in. She started with inviting in her step father and mother and then the next day hosted George Balanchine, the choreographer of the New York City Ballet. (JFK Library, 2016)
- First Lady Lou Hoover faced political backlash in 1929 when she originally intended to invite Mrs. De Priest to the congressional wives tea at the White House. Mrs. De Priest was the wife of Oscar De Priest, the first African-American Congressman, elected in 1928 to represent Illinois. Eventually, Mrs. Hoover arranged a second tea for Mrs. De Priest at the White House, with a select group of guests. She was still criticized by many of the Southern Congressman for promoting equality. (White House Historical Society, 2016)
- Teddy Roosevelt was known for his love of American food and had little use for exotic treats, except for Hu Kwa Tea, which is another name for Lapsang Suchong. During President Roosevelt’s time, the name Hu Kwa or Howqua was attached to many goods coming from China as it was the name of a famous Chinese merchant who had died almost almost 60 years earlier that many Americans associated with fairness and honesty. Howqua was also one of the wealthiest men of his time having made his fortune during the Opium Wars. (Landau, 2007)
- A daily cup of tea was not just for our founding fathers, both Gerald Ford and Lyndon Johnson had a cup of tea with their typical breakfast. Where the two men differed is that President Ford had an English muffin with jam while President Johnson preferred chipped beef and cream with his cup of tea. (Haller, 1987)
Haller, H. (1987). The White House Family Cookbook. New York: Random House.
JFK Library. (2016, February 9). JFK Library. Retrieved from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Fast-Facts/Entertaining-in-the-White-House.aspx
Landau, B. (2007). The President’s Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Dipolmacy. New York: Harper Collins.
Monticello. (2016, February 9). Monticello. Retrieved from Monticello Website: https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/tea
White House Historical Society. (2016, February 9). The White House Historical Society. Retrieved from White House Historical Society Website: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/hoover-depriest-tea-party-creates-a-stir