Itâ€™s December 16th, 1773 on Union Street, in Bostonâ€™s north end. Here, in the heart of the cityâ€™s financial district, stands an imposing two-story building. Above its door swings a copper dragon, long since turned green in Bostonâ€™s salt air. This is the Green Dragon Tavern & Coffee House â€“ meeting hall, gathering place, lodge house â€“ and crucible for the American Revolution.
All evening long patrons have been entering under the sign of the dragon, and â€œMohawksâ€? â€“ rebels carrying hatchets and clubs, faces painted with coal dust â€“ have been furtively slipping out the back door into the night, en route to Griffinâ€™s wharf. Tomorrow three shiploads of tea â€“ despised both for its outrageous tax burden, and the monopoly granted the East India Tea Company by the British Parliament â€“ are to be offloaded under the watchful eyes and guns of the British Admiral.
For weeks, patrons of the Green Dragon have been discussing tea, taxes and tyranny over their cups of coffee and rum. With passionate arguments led by Joseph Warren and Paul Revere, noted Sons of Liberty, the conversation becomes earnestâ€¦ and swings from impassioned debate to a call for action.
Tonight, at Griffinâ€™s wharf, the Mohawks answer that call. Boston Harbor becomes the largest teacup ever known as the entire tea consignment â€“ all 90,000 pounds â€“ is tossed overboard. Two thousand colonists watch as 150 Mohawks â€“ men they know, despite their thin disguises, as pillars of their community â€“ heave scores of smashed tea trunks into the harbor. In the morning, in a spectacular showing of fraternity, not one of the spectators would recall a single face.
Itâ€™s a defining event. In the years to follow, drinking tea in the American colonies would mark you as a British loyalist. Coffee â€“ untaxed, and not subject to British monopoly â€“ becomes on this fateful night in December, the drink of patriots.