History of the Teabag

Posted by Kriszti Nagy on

Heretofore it has been common to prepare tea ... by putting a quantity of tea leaves in a pot and pouring hot water thereon ... This practice involves the use of a considerable quantity of tea leaves to prepare the desired supply of tea, and the tea, if not used directly, soon becomes stale or wanting in freshness, and therefore unsatisfactory, and frequently a large portion of the tea thus prepared and not used directly has to be thrown away, thus involving much waste and corresponding expense.

Roberta Lawson and Mary McLaren

Teabag: a small porous sachet containing tea leaves or powdered tea, on to which boiling water is poured in order to make a drink of tea.

From the beginning until the early 20th century very little changed about how a cup of tea was made: one would steep tea leaves in a pot, then pour the liquor into cups - but that all changed in 1901.

Historically speaking, packing tea in paper was not a modern invention. In 8th century China, during the Tang Dynasty, paper was folded and sewn into square bags to preserve the qualities of tea.

After many American patent applications for convenient tea infusers (the first one dated as early as 1897), a patent for a 'Tea Leaf Holder' was filed in 1901 by Roberta Lawson and Mary McLaren of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



The aim was simple: to brew a single cup of fresh tea while no leaves were floating around the cup to spoil the experience.

Our novel tea-holding pocket is constructed of open-mesh woven fabric, inexpensively made of cotton thread.

Roberta Lawson and Mary McLaren

Many sources claim that the teabag was invented by American tea and coffee importer Thomas Sullivan in 1908, when he shipped out samples of tea packed in silk pouches. Using these bags to brew tea became very popular among his customers. Funnily enough, this invention was accindental. His customers were not meant to put the bags in the hot water directly, the tea was intended to be removed first.

Fabric was then replaced by filter paper, and slowly loose leaf tea began to disappear from the American store shelves during the 30's. Tetley brought the idea of the tea bag to the UK in 1939, but teabags were introduced only in 1952 when Lipton patented its “flo-thru” teabag.

This new way of consuming tea didn't take on as quickly in Britain as in the US. While in 1968 only 3% of all tea brewed in the UK was prepared using a teabag, by the end of the century this number rose to 96%.

The sad consequence of teabag use is that tea drinkers don't know how tea should look, feel and smell like, they cannot tell the quality of the tea they are drinking.

That is not to say that we are against teabags, we sell filters too, but these filters you can fill yourself, so you always know what you're steeping!

We've made it our mission to provide quality tea and help everyone re-discover the delight of drinking loose leaf tea!

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