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History of Lipton Tea From The 1800s Through To Today



What Set Sir Thomas apart was that, in an age when tea was a rare and expensive luxury, he believed that anyone should be able to enjoy tea at its best.

Ready for a little bit of history? Our story began way back in the 1800s with the vision of one man, our very own Sir Thomas Lipton. From humble beginnings in a tenement building in Glasgow, Sir Thomas would rise to become a world-renowned entrepreneur, yachtsman and of course, tea merchant extraordinaire. 

At the tender age of just 16, Sir Thomas signed up as a cabin boy and ventured to the USA where he held a series of jobs before returning to Scotland to help his parents run their grocery store. 


The first Lipton store


Sir Thomas took to the grocery business like a duck to water and one store soon became a chain of stores across Glasgow. One of the products he would sell to his customers was tea, and it wasn’t long before he spotted huge potential in this refreshing brew and bought his first tea estate in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He then reorganised it and introduced an innovative cable car system to make transporting leaves more efficient. 

Sir Thomas Lipton


Always a man of firsts, Sir Thomas took self-promotion to a whole new level, using spectacular publicity stunts at every opportunity. When the first Lipton® grocery store opened in Glasgow 1871, he celebrated by importing the world’s largest cheese and issuing ‘Lipton Currency Notes’. The man knew how to entertain, and it paid off - soon creating a nation of Lipton’s lovers. 

Lipton in Hoboken, New Jersey


But what set Sir Thomas apart was that, in an age when tea was a rare and expensive luxury, he believed that anyone, of any class, should be able to enjoy tea at its best.

He established the Thomas J Lipton Co.® tea packaging company in Hoboken, New Jersey and began to look for ways to make packaging and shipping less expensive. Instead of arriving in crates, loose tea was packed in multiple weight options. He also cut out the middleman and was the first to sell loose tea direct to the masses. At last, you didn’t have to be an aristocrat to enjoy a great cup of tea. 



Soon after, tea bags were accidentally discovered by American merchant, Thomas Sullivan (he sent tea samples to customers in silk bags which they then presumed should be placed in water). Thomas Lipton saw the future, and was the first to start selling tea bags. He was also the first to print brewing instructions on tea bag tags. 


These days, we have one of the most varied tea ranges available. From fruity iced tea to aromatic chai, there’s a tea for every occasion. So why not try something new? Your favourite new flavour could just be a few sips away.