Importing foreign luxury goods in the 18th century was associated with wealth and prestige in the upper classes, (Fromer, 62), but for the middle and lower classes, using smuggled goods had a certain excitement and romantic quality. It was also a way to show off contraband, like silks, lace, perfume, tea, and alcohol, which they could not otherwise afford (Wilson, 41).
After two centuries of importing porcelain from the Chinese, the British began manufacturing their own tea ware: teacups, teapots, saucers, bowls, and tea trays. Companies such as Wedgewood, Chelsea, Worcester, and Bow created beautiful work that is treasured today. J.M. Scott sees a contradiction in this, noting being “beautiful, delicate tea ware was develop while smugglers and revenue officers were knocking each other about so roughly” (Scott, 157).
In the early days of smuggling, shopkeepers had little knowledge of tea, but as people eventually became more educated about tea, their standards were raised, and the British people became very discerning customers (Mui, 51). If people wanted better quality and taste, they would have to purchase legal tea from the East India Company, which was usually pure and unadulterated (Wilson, 42). But as time went on, East India Company tea became average in quality and tea imported into Sweden and Denmark was the finest (Mui, 47), and tea from the French and Dutch tea was the middle grade.
Sweden and Denmark began importing Congou, a variety of black tea that the East India Company imported little of. Smugglers made big profit on Congou and often acquired types the East India Company did not. This gave the English people variety, and the lower classes occasionally drank better quality teas than the upper classes (Mui, 47).