Historic Tea Timeline

Tea drinking is a British institution - a daily ritual for the entire nation. We have been drinking tea on these shores for over 350 years, however the history of tea goes back much, 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!

Chinese Emperor Shen Nung
West India Company


Unknown in Britain, Chinese tea is brought over by sailors and first served up in London’s coffee houses.


Portuguese princess (and tea addict), Catherine of Braganza, marries King Charles II and soon establishes tea as a fashionable drink for the very wealthy. Tea was regarded and traded as an expensive commodity for the affluent.


The East India Company places its first order for tea to be imported into Britain.


At the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, a heat wave leads tea planter Richard Blechynden to add ice to his tea. It causes a sensation, and iced tea is born.


Joseph and Edward Tetley start up their business in Yorkshire. In 1856 they move to Cullum Street, London, just yards from the tea auction rooms.


By this point, tea is the favoured drink of Britain’s lower classes, in spite of the huge taxes it carries. These taxes are reduced in the middle of the 19th century.

Joseph Tetley & Co.
Ladies in grey


A happy accident. New York tea merchant, Thomas Sullivan, sent samples of tea to customers in small silken bags, which people wrongly assumed were supposed to be placed into tea pots, rather than emptying out the contents. Consequently, the muchloved tea bag was born!


Tetley’s British representative, TI Tetley- Jones, goes to America and brings back the idea of the tea bag. In 1940, the firstTetley tea bag machines, known as the grey ladies, stitch 40 tea bags a minute for export.


To great public joy, World War Two tea rationing is finally lifted and the foundations are laid for Tetley to bring the tea bag to the UK market for the first time.


Tetley introduce the Drawstring tea which was designed to help give the same great taste as our original tea bag, just without the mess.

Elvis Gaffer



An Elvis-inspired Gaffer celebrates the launch of the Round Bag. By 2004, the Tetley range of teas has grown to offer fruit and herbal infusions, green teas and speciality blends… and we’re still updating and innovating today.


Carefully sourced from the Cedarberg region of South Africa and perfect for our caffeine-free tea lovers, Tetley launched Pure Redbush.


A delicious blend of Asian and African green tea leaves, sourced from high altitude plantations, gives Tetley’s Pure Green its smooth mellow taste.




Innovative and health beneficial, Tetley launched a Super Green tea range, with added vitamins to help support immune systems or to help reduce tiredness and fatigue.


Tetley unveiled a brand refresh with a new logo across all products and communications.


Painting for website


Gordon Bruce (@gordonbruceart) shared a brewtiful piece of art featuring the Tetley van.