Monday Sept 8th Mother Mrs Stevens & self sat down
to work in my chamber The weather is very
hot After dinner we went into the other
part of the house awhile it being so much
cooler Abby came here to tea. Oakes A
Frank & Mrs Mitchell went to a party to Mr
Cushing Mitchells this Evening & are to spend the night
Tea had been on the serving tray very much of late, with or without short biscuits. Evelina served tea to her niece, Abby Torrey, today while yesterday she took tea at the parsonage during intermission. Three days ago, she hosted a small tea party for a guest, Mrs. Latham, her sister-in-law, Sarah Ames Witherell, and others. Evelina’s grandson, Winthrop Ames, described the importance of tea time some eighty years later:
“Supper, always called Tea, at seven was the sociable occasion. It was usually consisted of cold meats, hot biscuits, preserves and cakes – an easy menu to expand for unexpected guests. Every week at least, and usually oftener, one household would invite the others and their visitors to tea; and the whole Ames family might assemble…”*
Although the Ameses grew and raised much of their own food, tea was a commodity that had to be purchased. Coffee and sugar, too. As the above advertisement from 1856 indicates, tea and coffee could be purchased in bulk in Boston (not surprisingly, given Boston’s long history of importing tea into its harbor!) Black tea was the general favorite and, as the ad suggests, could be obtained in different grades of excellence. Did the Ameses order in bulk? Did they acquire a chest of tea at the family rate? Their careful use of money would imply that whichever Ames did the purchasing got the best product for the lowest price possible.
The weather, meanwhile, continued to be very hot. It didn’t prevent brothers Oakes Angier and Frank Morton and their youngest aunt, Harriett Ames Mitchell, from traveling to Bridgewater for a party and an overnight. Social goings-on continued. No doubt, tea was served.
*Winthrop Ames, The Ames Family of Easton, Massachusetts, 1938, p. 128