The Tea Act of 1773 provided for the following:
* Tea was allowed to be shipped in East India Company ships directly from India to the American colonies, thus avoiding a tax if the commodity were first sent to England as required by previous legislation
* A duty of three pence per pound was to be collected on tea delivered to America; this tax was considerably less than the previous one
* The tea was to be marketed in America by special consignees selected by the East India Company.
Many in England thought this law would be warmly greeted in America, because it allowed the colonists to resume their tea-drinking habit at a cost lower than ever before. Ships laden with more than 500,000 pounds of tea set off for the colonies in September 1773.
The optimists in Britain were disappointed by the American reaction. Ordinarily conservative shippers and shopkeepers were directly impacted by the new law and were vocal in their opposition. Previously, American ships brought much of the tea from England, but that trade was now reserved for the East India Company. The shop owners objected to the new practice of using only selected merchants to sell the tea; many would be excluded from this trade in favor of a new monopoly.
Opposition developed to the arriving tea shipments in Boston and other colonial ports. The Tea Act actually revived the flagging careers of agitators like Samuel Adams, who had been frustrated in recent years by the relative calm in the relationship with the mother country. The radicals found allies in the formerly conservative business community.