New York`s love of tea began in the 17th century, when the Dutch imported it to the colony. By the time the British took over, tea-drinking had become an ingrained social custom, especially for ladies. There was one problem though: finding fresh, clean water for brewing the tea, according to New York City: A Food Biography.The pumps drew water from underground springs, but what came out tended to be distasteful and brackish. (It`s part of the reason people in the colonial city also developed a taste for beer, Madeira wine, and spirits.)Luckily for the ten thousand or so city residents at the time, a couple of the street corner pumps actually produced high-quality, refreshing water. These special pumps became known as “tea water pumps” because the water that came out of them made high-quality tea. Perhaps the most famous tea water pump was at Chatham and Roosevelt Streets, just south of Collect Pond. Here “stood the celebrated old Tea Water Pump, of which it was alleged by the housekeepers who drew from it, that it made better tea than any other water; it was supplied by a spring from the hill of sand leading up to the juncture of Harmon Street (East Broadway) and the Bowery,” wrote Haswell.In 1748, a traveler to New York wrote: “There is no good water in the town itself, but at a little distance, there is a large spring of good water, which the inhabitants take for their tea, and for the uses of the kitchen…” Shortly before the American Revolution, a pump was placed over this spring and ornamental grounds laid out. The “Tea Water Pump Garden” became a famous resort where tea and stronger beverages could be obtained. It became so popular that by 1797, the spout had to be raised so carts could pass beneath.Another legendary tea water pump was in today`s Nolita/Chinatown area. “Sometime during the first half of the 1700s, a spring of fresh water between Baxter and Mulberry Streets began to attract popular attention.”By 1774, an estimated 3,000 households bought their water this way, according to New York City: a Food Biography. At the turn of the 19th century, though, even the tea water pump wells were becoming polluted, especially those closest to Collect Pond, now a stinking cesspool polluted by industry.

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