Lipton Tea company was founded in a rather unusual way.
In 1878, five coffee plantations on the island of Colombo, (then) Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) had been taken over by a fungus and the businesses fallen subject to bankruptcy.
Thomas Lipton sailed to the island and purchased the plantations.
He paid local workers to rip up the existing plants, and elephants helped. Once the crops were pulled, however, Mr. Lipton decided to plant tea instead of coffee. This allowed Mr. Lipton an advantage over other tea companies because Lipton was eliminating the middlemen who shipped and sold tea in the London market.
Lipton made history at this moment, as he became the first manufacturer of tea to buy his own estates to ensure quality products. His vision to make tea more affordable and of high quality was quickly becoming true.
Today, the company remains one of the only tea brands with its own estates and research centres.
Thomas Lipton was originally from Scotland, but eventually ended up in the southern US, working in Charleston’s rice fields as an immigrant in the wake of the Civil War. He soon returned to New York and learned extensively while working under a grocer. He returned home to take over his parent’s Scottish grocery store, which soon turned to several stores throughout the UK.
By 1893, Thomas J. Lipton Co. was established as a tea packing company in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The tea immediately gained success in the United States and in Great Britain. Thomas Lipton became Sir Thomas Lipton in 1898, when Queen Victoria knighted him.
Like most early tea companies, Lipton tea experimented with a new type of tea bag as tea became popular in the Western World. In the 1950s, the tea brand patented its four sided bag, which allows more water and air to expand the bag. This is said to enhance flavor.
Like any modern day reputable tea company, Lipton has also committed itself to fair labor practices and ethical standards. The tea company works with Rainforest Alliance, who also ensures that practices are environmentally sound and economically prospering for farm families.
Varieties by Lipton tea include black tea, green tea, herbal tea, iced tea and flavored tea. In the Southern United States, where tea is usually served iced and sweetened, Lipton is a leading brand and a heated topic for debate. Prepared “southern style,” the tea is often boiled or steeped for long periods of time, and recipes vary among families and areas of the region.
Other southern “legends” for Lipton tea include:
- Apply a wet teabag (only the four sided variety) onto burns or sunburns for relief.
- Apply the teabags over tired eyes to reduce puffiness and redness.
- Use brewed but cooled tea as a wood cleaner.
- Keep house plants “friskier” by watering with diluted, cool, Lipton tea once a week.
- Use half Lipton brewed tea (strong) and double strength beef broth to tenderize beef. The tannins in Lipton tea are rumored to help tenderize the meat.
Lipton boasts that its professional tasters can narrow down manufacturing practices, value and sometimes even the location of the tea’s origin, all by a simple taste. The tea company also boasts a line of pre-made beverages such as bottled and canned tea. They also have mixes that can be blended on the go when steeping isn’t an option. Today, Lipton tea is sold in more than 150 countries, making it the leading brand worldwide.