3The Colonists Blundered Britain into the French and Indian War
Say you have a friend, who's kind of a loud-mouth. He's a few years younger than you and infinitely more irritating, so much so that he pissed off some tougher, bigger kids. Now they want to kick his ass. Even though it's your friend's own fault, and even though you had nothing to do with the dispute, you still feel like you have to step in and fight on his behalf. The French and Indian War was sort of like that, except Great Britain was the older, sensible friend of the idiot colonists, and the French "bullies" knew a shitload of Indians.
The land known as the Ohio Country was perfect for fur trading. The French realized this, so they claimed it. The British colony of Virginia claimed it "second," which is English for first. Great Britain didn't care too much and France wasn't terribly interested in putting up a big fight over what clearly must have just been a misunderstanding. The colonists were, objectively, wrong. To apologize for the misunderstanding, the Virginian colonists started sprinting to the territory in order to gobble up land, take advantage of the fur trade, and annoy the living crap out of the Native Americans.
The French, hilariously thinking this conflict was still in the "words" phase, sent a bunch of troops on a peace mission into the forest to see if absolutely anyone in Virginia was in charge (nope!) A nearby colonial militia spotted the French, and being young, dumb, and full of guns, they thought it'd be real neat to sneak up and yell "SURPRISE!" With their guns.
Now, the French are fine if you're running around saying "Nuh uh, we own the land," but if you start wrecking their shit? They're going to have something to say which, in this case, involved recruiting a buttload of Indians and an even bigger buttload of bullets. Regardless of the outcome, the ensuing French and Indian war ended up being ridiculously expensive for the British who, remember, didn't even really give a crap to begin with.
On top of this, the British colonial smugglers continued to sell stuff to the French illegally throughout the course of the war. This kept the French well-supplied and the British well-supplied with rage at the colonists who, (once again), refused to pay taxes.
2The Colonists Were Crazy
Here's maybe the most blatant display of colonial bullshit, because this is where everything starts coming together. Remember that expensive war the colonists dragged Britain into? Great Britain thought it was only fair that the colonists share some of that cost, especially since the victory showed more benefit to the colonists than it did Great Britain. That's reasonable. To cover this cost, GB tried throwing in some more taxes, which is also reasonable. As you'll recall, though, the colonists hated paying reasonable taxes, so all of the new taxes, (except the tax on tea), were repealed.
We can't even conceive of a government repealing taxes based solely on us not wanting to pay them, because that's all taxes, but Great Britain pulled out. Just like that. Just to make the colonists happy, (those sonsabitches loved their tea), Great Britain came up with the Tea Act of 1773, which would give the colonists tea that was both cheaper and better than the tea they were getting from smugglers. Still sounds reasonable. France is out of the colonists's hair, some taxes are removed, and they get high quality tea at a cheaper cost.
The colonists threw the tea in the water.
It worked like this: the East India Trading Company was being driven into the ditch by colonial smugglers, and they only had one asset left that could save them: tea. So, Britain gave them an exclusive deal to sell their high quality tea cheaply to the colonists. Then, the British bundled it with a smaller import tax. Yes, it was like having to buy every Wii bundled with a copy of Let's Lotion Stuff 2, but the whole damn thing would only be 25 dollars, so it sounded like a fair compromise. Britain just wanted the Tea Tax in there to a) show they still were running shit at least a little bit and b) discourage people from illegally buy low-grade crap from smugglers.
Smugglers, like John Hancock, hate being told they can't smuggle. Their businesses were metaphorically dependant on everybody remaining horrified by Great Britain's terrible, (reasonable), awful, (in retrospect economically responsible) taxation practices, so they started a smear campaign in New York and Pennsylvania, painting the Tea Act as just a sneaky way to get everyone to accept new taxes. By this point, "new taxes", while vital to paying down the still-a-massive-problem national debt, was a phrase now capable of making the colonists go apeshit like it was the fucking secret word on Pee-Wee's playhouse.
"THEY'RE TAKIN' OUR TEA!"
And in this case, the secret word demanded that some motherfuckers better get their tea-dump on.
Riots, pamphlets and one Tea Party later, all done to help level the playing field for tea smugglers who were not about to let quality goods get in the way of their incredibly shortsighted business model.