Their speed and ability to transport vast quantities of tea, silks, spices and porcelain from the East.
|Opium clipper Water Witch (1831). © NMM|
The ships were called Clippers because they could 'clip' the journey time. Journeys that had once taken a year were now over in 100 days.
The defining characteristics of the tea clipper were a sharply-raked bow, overhanging stern, and acres of sail.