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Drawing on diaries, travel accounts, legal records, trade cards, and visual culture – and inspired by the attempts of present-day eating and drinking establishments to create or adapt outdoor consumption spaces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – this paper explores the social and cultural world of the tea garden in early modern London, especially as a site for the retail, exchange, and consumption of β€˜new’ intoxicants (especially tea, coffee, and tobacco). While largely ignored in recent historiography in favour of the larger pleasure gardens (especially Vauxhall and Ranelagh) and the indoor settings of alehouse, coffeehouse, tavern, and inn, the paper argues that c.100 metropolitan tea gardens, many of them in semi-rural settings on the outskirts of the city, were central to the circulation of new intoxicating substances and their assimilation into the habits and diets of early modern Londoners: by creating a viewing platform for the conspicuous consumption of fashionable new commodities; by promoting conceptual associations between new intoxicants and good health; and by offering botanical settings for the enjoyment of plant-based tropical staples. Often attached to inns and taverns, tea gardens were also venues for the consumption of traditional intoxicants in the form of ale, beer, wine, and spirits, and were therefore hybridised consumption spaces in which, characteristically, old and new intoxicants cross-fertilised and overlapped.


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