Lipton's Tea-How the American Working Class Discovered Tea

Lipton's Tea-How the American Working Class Discovered Tea

While today, it may be owned by the same megacorporation as Pepsi, Lipton tea began with a single grocery store, founded by the Irish immigrant Thomas Lipton.  Before this man came into the tea industry, tea was a luxury good.  It was difficult for Americans and Europeans to obtain for a variety of reasons.  Countries which were able to grow it, which is to say, China, guarded it jealously.  It was also very difficult to ship the tea to Europe, and getting it to America meant sending it on a ship quite literally to the far side of the globe.  However, in the 1880’s, all of the conditions for tea becoming more accessible fell into place.  Britain had colonized India, stolen Chinese tea plants, and begun growing black tea.  Ships were becoming faster and more efficient.  And Thomas Lipton had 200 grocery stores, and was looking for more interesting items to sell in them.  

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Before Lipton, tea was prohibitively expensive for the working class.  It had to be sold by the plantation to someone who would ship it overseas, and again to a retailer, before finally being sold to the consumer.  At every step of the operation, the price had to be increased, in order to ensure that the trade was always profitable.  The first way in which Lipton made tea cheap was by owning the entire process of production.  He bought his own tea plantations in India, shipped his tea as cheaply as was possible, and sold it in his own grocery stores.  As a result of avoiding middle-men, and, perhaps, also creating a lower-quality product, Lipton was able to place tea on the shelves of a grocery store, at a price which his grocery store shoppers could afford. Thus, the American working class was first introduced to tea.

We at Good Life Tea sell tea more like the tea traders from before Lipton did.  We do not own the plantations which we buy from, and do not cut corners in order to save money.  As a result, our teas end up being of a much higher quality, and of a much greater variety.  While Lipton tea is not widely available in the United Kingdom, because it quite literally is of such a low quality that there isn’t a market for it, our teas are all of a much higher quality, and sold loose, rather than bagged.  We also have more than 100 different types of tea.  We believe that tea should still be treated as a luxury item.  However, unlike fine wines or designer clothes, tea is an affordable luxury.  Even very high quality teas, such as jasmine dragon pearls or yunnan black needles, which come from the far side of the world, and which require a great deal of work, much of which is done by hand, are still affordable.  We owe a great deal to Thomas Lipton, for bringing tea to this country, but even high-quality teas have stopped having a luxurious price.  

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