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Tetley store in Victorian Great Britain
Heritage

Brewing Strong at a Hundred and Eightea

Vintage has played a part in Tetley’s blending of taste, quality and innovation to find flavour and favour with consumers around the world

March 2018     |     315 words     |     1-minute read

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Tetley has a richly brewed heritage — all of 180 years old and counting. Some 45 million cups of Tetley tea are consumed globally every single day, making it the world’s second-largest tea brand. Old clearly is gold in this instance.

Tetley was established in 1837 by two brothers, Joseph and Edward Tetley from Yorkshire in England. Originally salt merchants, they ventured into selling tea and set up ‘Joseph Tetley & Co’. The brothers soon expanded the business, moving to London, then the hub of the global tea trade, and setting up at Cullum Street.

An early photo of Tetley's tea factory from over a century ago

A decade later, Edward exited the business to launch a brewery business and Joseph renamed the company ‘Joseph Tetley & Company, Wholesale Tea Dealers’. In 1871, after Joseph’s son Joseph Tetley Junior joined the enterprise, Tetley diversified into the blending and packing of tea and established its presence in America by partnering with Wright & Graham, a New York- based distribution company.

Under the son’s stewardship, the company launched its first tea bag in America. In 1939, the tea bag was brought to Britain from America by Tetley’s British representative, TI Tetley-Jones. Soon, Tetley installed the famous ‘Grey Ladies’, its tea bag machines known for stitching 40 tea bags a minute.

Teabags, introduced in England in 1939, soon became popular

The tea bag culture gained popularity in Britain, with Tetley introducing the round tea bag that fit perfectly into a mug. Overseas, Tetley’s dripless draw-string tea bags began winning over customers in Australia and other countries.

A scene from a tea tasting room in 1837

Acquired by Tata in 2000 and now part of Tata Global Beverages, Tetley has a presence in more than 40 countries. It has become synonymous with innovation, foraying into fruit and herbal infusions, green teas and speciality teas. Tetley surely has aged well, and stayed forever young at heart. 

—Farah Dada

 


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