Historic Tea Timeline

The story of tea is as old as nature itself. We have been drinking tea on these shores for over 350 years; however, the history of tea goes back much further:



2737 BC

The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung is sitting under a large tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), while his servant boils drinking water. Some leaves from the tree blow into the water, an accidental infusion takes place and the cup of tea is born. Well that’s the legend, anyway!

2737 BC

600 AD



600 AD

By now, tea is the national drink of China. It's manufactured in brick form: the tea leaves are pounded and pressed into a brick-shaped mould and then dried.



Early 1600s

In the 1600s, the British East India Company has a monopoly on importing goods from outside Europe. Tea’s popularity is spread by sailors bringing home tea as gifts.

Early 1600s
1660


1660

The diarist Samuel Pepys discovers tea. In 1660 he writes that he “…did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never drank before.”



Early 1700s

Britain is now obsessed with tea but taxes put it out of reach. 5 million lbs of tea are sold legally – but 7 million lbs are smuggled.

Early 1700s
1773


1773

The Boston Tea Party: when British ships arrive in Boston, a band of men board the ships, split open its cargo of 342 chests and throw the lot into the sea. It’s all a protest over British taxes.

 



1834

The famous clipper races begin in China and go down the China Sea, across the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, up the Atlantic, past the Azores and into the English Channel. The clippers are then towed up the River Thames by tugs, and the first ship to throw its cargo onto the docks is the winner.

1834
1837


1837

Joseph and Edward Tetley start to sell salt in Yorkshire, England. In time, they add tea to their repertoire. Good move.



1856

The Tetley brothers move to Cullum Street, London, just yards from the tea auction rooms. By 1888 they have an office in America too.

1856
1904


1904

At the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, a heatwave leads tea planter Richard Blechynden to change his plans. Instead of serving hot tea, he adds ice to it. It causes a sensation and iced tea is born.



1908

A happy accident. Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant, sends out samples of tea in small silken bags. Some customers assume they should put the whole bag in the pot—it works!

 

1908
1939


1939

Tetley’s British representative (Mr. T I Tetley-Jones) goes to America and brings back the idea of the tea bag.



Late 1940s

The first Tetley tea bag machines are known as the ‘grey ladies’ and stitch 40 tea bags a minute for export.

Late 1940s
1953


1953

Tetley introduce the tea bag to Britain for the first time.



1968

By now, Tetley tea bag sales have soared to 5,000 tonnes a year.

1968
1973


1973

J. Lyons of Corner House fame acquires Tetley. Lyons Tetley is formed.



1989

Tetley is the first to launch round tea bags. They are especially well suited to the growing popularity of brewing tea in mugs.

1989
2004


2004

By now, Tetley offers fruit & herbal infusions, green teas, and speciality teas in addition to its classic blend.



2015

Every week, Tetley buys one million kilos of tea; as a result, countless cups of Tetley Tea are enjoyed throughout the world each day.

2015