The purpose of the British Tea Act of 1773 was to provide economic support to the failing East India Company by allowing it to sell its overstocked tea directly to American colonists. Contrary to popular belief, this legislature did not propose any new taxes to the colonists.
In the early 1770s, the East India Company was beginning to experience economic hardship. They found themselves with a surplus of tea that they could not sell to a British market. Instead, Parliament proposed that they sell the tea to the American colonies at a discounted price. When colonists heard about this offer, some labeled it as a ploy to build support for British taxes. Also, some colonists were upset because British merchants planned to compete against the local tea merchants for business.
In response to the Tea Act of 1773, the colonists refused to buy tea from the British merchants. Colonists from Philadelphia and New York actually sent the ships back to Britain. Ships that arrived in Charleston were allowed to unload, but colonists let the goods sit on the docks and expire. Most notably, the Boston Royal Governor refused to let the ships leave the Boston Harbor. This action led to the infamous Boston Tea Party and served as the first true act of defiance in the American Revolution.