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Tea Timeline

Some 5,000 years ago the “tea leaf” was discovered … a beautiful gift from nature that nurtured both the body and soul. Habits were formed, traditions established, and inspiring words written and sung declaring that tea is to become the most popular beverage in the world.

With the Industrial Revolution and the transition from hand production methods to machines, merchants like Sir Thomas Lipton demanded high-speed packaging to facilitate world-wide distribution. The commercialization of tea in the late 1880’s would afford no time to be romantic about the leaf, and so, a timely discovery of the “tea bag” was praised by many.

Producing two-million tea bags a day from a single machine required the tea leaf to be crushed and replaced by a lower grade referred to as fannings and dust. Shifting the priority from tea leaf to tea bag, the world’s great thirst had actually weakened the very nature of the experience.

Rediscovery and an entrepreneurial willingness to overthrow conventional wisdom, Revolution Tea restored the experience with a modern packaging method that could actually produce a tea bag using full-leaf tea. Going back to the starting point of the “tea leaf” slowed production to forty-thousand tea bags a day but gained high marks for flavor, taste, authenticity and a reflection of the true attraction consumers have to tea.

“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.” - Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (1862)


Flow-through Infuser tea bag Introduced

Revolution Tea introduces the first flow-through Infuser tea bag, which captures the flavor and aroma of loose, full-leaf tea in the convenience of a tea bag.


Revolution Tea is founded

Revolution Tea is founded on the idea of bringing premium, full-leaf teas to consumers.


Cultivators and Exporters

Sumatra, Indonesia becomes a cultivator and exporter of tea followed by Kenya and parts of Africa.


Lipton begins

Thomas Lipton begins blending and packaging his tea in New York.


Thomas Sullivan Invents Tea Bag

New York tea importer Thomas Sullivan inadvertently invents tea bags when he sends tea to clients in small silk bags and they mistakenly steep the bags whole.


Green Tea outsells Black Tea

Green tea and Formosan (Taiwanese) tea outsells black tea by five times in the U.S.


Iced Tea Created

Englishman Richard Blechynden creates iced tea during a heat wave at the St Louis World Fair.


Coffee Markets Turns to Tea Market

Ceylon's successful coffee market turns into a successful tea market.


Assam Tea Market Booms

Assam tea plants take over imported Chinese plants in India and its tea market booms.


Thomas J Lipton Co. is established

Thomas J Lipton Co. is established as a tea packing company with its headquarters and factory in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Thomas Lipton Sells Tea at Resonable Price

Thomas Lipton buys tea estates in Ceylon, in order to sell tea at a reasonable price at his growing chain of 300 grocery stores.


Lipton opens his first shop in Glasgow

Thomas Johnstone Lipton opens his first shop in Glasgow, using American merchandising methods he learned working in the grocery section of a New York department store.


New Food and Drugs Laws

A new British Sale of Food and Drugs Law calls adulteration hazardous to personal health and increases its legal consequences to a heavy fine or imprisonment.


Food, Drink, and Drugs Act

The Adulteration of Food, Drink, and Drugs Act deems the sale of adulterated drugs or other unlabeled mixtures with foreign additives that increase weight as punishable offenses.


Blending Tea for Uniformity Begins

Twinings of England begins to blend tea for uniformity.


Suez Canal Opens

The Suez Canal opens, shortening the trip to China and making steamships more economical.


Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company

In a marketing effort to capitalize on the transcontinental rail link fervor, the Great American Tea Company is renamed the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.


Coffee Crops in Ceylon Ruined

A plant fungus ruins the coffee crop in Ceylon and spreads throughout the Orient and the Pacific, giving a hefty boost to tea drinking.


Tea from China

Over 90 percent of Britain's tea is still imported from China.


Great American Tea Company store

Local New York merchant George Huntington Hartford and his employer George P. Gilman give the A&P retail chain its start as the Great American Tea Company store. Hartford and Gilman buy whole clipper shipments from the New York harbor and sell the tea 1/3 cheaper than other merchants.


Tea in Darjeeling India

Tea is planted in and about Darjeeling, India.


London gets Chinese Tea

Londoners get their first peak at a U.S. clipper ship when one arrives from Hong Kong full of China tea.


Gold Takes Over

U.S. clipper ships soon desert China trade for the more profitable work of taking gold seekers to California.


Parliament ends the Britain's Navigation Acts

Parliament ends the Britain's Navigation Acts, and U.S. clipper ships are allowed to transport China tea to British ports.


Henry Charles Harrod takes over a London grocery store

Tea wholesaler Henry Charles Harrod takes over a London grocery store and grows it into one of the world's largest department stores.


Afternoon Tea Introduced

Anna the Duchess of Bedford introduces afternoon tea, which becomes a lasting English ritual.

1840s and 50s

Tea Plants cultivated in Sri Lanka

The first tea plants, imports from China and India, are cultivated on a trial basis in Sri Lanka (Ceylon).


Transporting tea speeds up

American clipper ships speed up tea transports to America and Europe.


Tea from Indian soil and imported Chinese tea plants are sold

The first tea from Indian soil and imported Chinese tea plants is sold. A small amount is sent to England and quickly purchased due to its uniqueness.


Major Samuel Shaw trades cargo for tea

The first American consul at Canton, Major Samuel Shaw, trades cargo for tea and silk, earning investors a great return on their capital and encouraging more Americans to trade with China.


East India Company in Assam

The East India Company starts the first tea plantations in Assam, India.


East India Company loses its monopoly in the trade with China

By an act of the British Prime Minister Charles Grey (the second Earl Grey and the namesake of the famous tea), the East India Company loses its monopoly in the trade with China, mostly in tea.


Congress reduces duties

Congress reduces U.S. duties on coffee and tea and other imports.


Tea is sealed in packages

English Quaker John Horniman introduces the first retail tea in sealed, lead-lined packages.


Bona fide tea plants

Samples of indigenous Indian tea plants are sent to an East India Company botanist who is slowly convinced that they are bona fide tea plants.


Tea drinking hits a rate of 2 pounds per capita annually

English tea drinking hits a rate of 2 pounds per capita annually, a rate that increases by five times over the next 10 years.


11 Million Pounds of Tea

11 million pounds of tea are brought into England.


Parliament reduces the British import taxes on tea

Parliament further reduces the British import taxes on tea in an effort to end the smuggling that accounts for the majority of the nation's tea imports.


For 50 years India is unsuccessful at growing tea

Before the indigenous Assam tea plants are identified, British naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, hired by the East India Company, suggests that India grow, plant and cultivate imported Chinese tea. For 50 years, India is unsuccessful.


American Revolution begins

After several British attempts to end the taxation protests, the American Revolution begins.


Parliament passes the Coercive Acts

A furious British Parliament passes the Coercive Acts in response to the American "tea party" rebellions. King George III agrees to the Boston Port Bill, which closes the Boston Harbor until the East India Company is reimbursed for its tea.


Tea Parties

In protest of British tea taxes and in what becomes known as the Boston Tea Party, colonists disguised as Native Americans board East India Company ships and unload hundreds of chests of tea into the harbor. Such "tea parties" are repeated in Philadelphia, New York, Maine, North Carolina, and Maryland through 1774.


Townshend Revenue Act Ends

Parliament rescinds the Townshend Revenue Act, eliminating all import taxes except those on teas.


Townshend Revenue Act Passes

The Townshend Revenue Act passes the British Parliament, imposing duty on tea and other goods imported into the British American colonies. A town meeting is held in Boston to protest the Townshend Revenue Act, which leads to an American boycott of British imports and a smuggling in of Dutch teas.


Most popular beverage in America

Tea easily ranks as the most popular beverage in the American colonies.


Russian Empress extends tea as a regulated trade

The Russian Empress extends tea as a regulated trade. In order to fill Russia's tea demand, traders and three hundred camels travel 11,000 miles to and from China, which takes sixteen months. Russian tea-drinking customs emerge, which entail using tea concentrate, adding hot water, topping it with a lemon, and drinking it through a lump of sugar held between the teeth.


British import taxes on tea reduced

British Prime Minister Robert Walpole reduces British import taxes on tea.


The Golden Lyon

Tom's Coffee House evolves into the first teashop called the Golden Lyon. Both men and women patronize the shop.


Tom's Coffee House

Thomas Twining serves up tea at Tom's Coffee House in London.


Tea Imports Top 800,000 pounds

Annual tea importation to England tops 800,000 pounds.


Tea drinking thrives

During Queen Anne's reign, tea drinking thrives in British coffeehouses.

18th Century

Tea controversy continues

The controversy over tea continues in England and Scotland where opponents claim it's overpriced, harmful to one's health, and may even lead to moral decay.

Late 1600s

Tea across Mongolia and Siberia

Russia and China sign a treaty that brings the tea trade across Mongolia and Siberia.


Taiwanese cultivation

The first known Taiwanese cultivation and export of domestic tea takes place.


Tea Sold in Massachusetts

The first tea is sold publicly in Massachusetts.


Tea introduced to Scotland

Tea with milk is mentioned in Madam de Sévigné's letters. The Duchess of York introduces tea to Scotland.


Black tea drinkers in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts colony is known to drink black tea.


English East India Company monopolizes British tea imports

The English East India Company monopolizes British tea imports after convincing the British government to ban Dutch imports of tea.


Holland tea prices drop

Holland tea prices drop to $80-$100 per pound.


Tea to England

The English East India Company brings the gift of tea to the British king and queen. The British take over New Amsterdam, name it New York, and a British tea tradition ensues.


Alcohol consumption declines

When Charles II takes a tea-drinking bride (Catherine Braganza of Portugal), tea becomes so chic that alcohol consumption declines.


Debate over tea's health benefits

The debate over tea's health benefits versus detriments heightens when a Dutch doctor praises its curative side while French and German doctors call out its harmful side.


Garway's Coffee House

The first tea is sold as a health beverage in London, England at Garway's Coffee House.


Dutch introduce tea to New Amsterdam

The Dutch introduce several teas and tea traditions to New Amsterdam, which later becomes New York.


Tea parties become trendy among women

Tea parties become quite trendy among women across the social classes. Husbands cry family ruin, and religious reformers call for a ban.


Wealthy Dutch Tea parties

Wealthy Dutch merchants' wives serve tea at parties.


Dangers of tea drinking

Tea catches on in the Dutch court. A German physician touts a warning about the dangers of tea drinking.


Russian Czar Alexis refuses tea

Chinese ambassadors present the Russian Czar Alexis with many chests of tea, which are refused as useless.


Dutch bring back green tea from Japan

The Dutch bring back green tea from Japan (although some argue it was from China). The Dutch East India Company markets tea as an exotic medicinal drink, but it's so expensive only the aristocracy can afford the tea and its serving pieces.

End of 1500s

Sen-no Rikyu opens the first independent teahouse

Japanese tea master Sen-no Rikyu opens the first independent teahouse and evolves the tea ceremony into its current simple and aesthetic ritual. During this ceremony, one takes a garden path into a portico, enters upon hearing the host's gong, washes in a special room, and then enters a small tearoom that holds a painting or flower arrangement to gaze upon. The tea master uses special utensils to whisk the intense powdered tea. Tea drinkers enjoy the art or flowers and then smell and slurp from a shared tea bowl.

End of 1500s

Europeans hear about tea again

Europeans hear about tea again when Portuguese priests spreading Roman Catholicism through China taste tea and write about its medicinal and taste benefits.


Tea is mentioned for the first time in an English translation

Tea is mentioned for the first time in an English translation of Dutch navigator Jan Hugo van Linschooten's travels, in which he refers to tea as chaa.


Europeans learn about tea

Europeans learn about tea when a Venetian author credits the lengthy lives of Asians to their tea drinking.


Japanese tea ceremonies

Japan's shogun Yoshimasa encourages tea ceremonies, painting, and drama.


Japanese tea Cha-no-yu ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony emerges onto the scene. First created by a Zen priest named Murata Shuko, the ceremony is called Cha-no-yu, literally meaning "hot water tea" and celebrates the mundane aspects of everyday life. Tea's status elevates to an art form and almost a religion.

1368-1644 Ming Dynasty

All teas found in China

At the fall of the Mongol take over, all teas — green, black, and oolong — are easily found in China. The process of steeping whole tea leaves in cups or teapots becomes popular.


Tea drinking dies down in China

Mongolia takes over China and since the Emperor of Mongol isn't a "tea guy," tea drinking dies down in the courts and among the aristocracy. The masses continue to indulge.


Japanese tea book Kitcha-Yojoki written

Japanese Buddhist abbot Eisai writes the first Japanese tea book Kitcha-Yojoki (Book of Tea Sanitation).

1206-1368 Yuan Dynasty

Tea becomes a commonplace beverage in China

During the Mongol take over of China, tea becomes a commonplace beverage but never regains its high social status.


Tea planted in Kyoto temple

Japanese Buddhist abbot Eisai, who introduced Zen Buddhism to Japan, brings tea seeds from China and plants them around his Kyoto temple.


Chinese Emperor Hui Tsung becomes tea obsessed

Chinese Emperor Hui Tsung becomes tea obsessed and writes about the best tea-whisking methods. He even holds tea-tasting tournaments in the court. While distracted by his passion for tea, or so the story goes, he doesn't notice the Mongol take over of his empire. Teahouses in garden settings pop up around China.

960-1280 Sung Dynasty

Chinese and Japanese tea drinking is on the rise

Chinese tea drinking is on the rise, as are elegant teahouses and teacups carefully crafted from porcelain and pottery. Drinking powdered and frothed tea or tea scented with flowers is widespread in China while earlier flavorings fall by the wayside. Zen Buddhism catches on in Japan via China and along come tea-drinking temple rituals.


Buddhism and tea devotion spreads further

Buddhism and tea devotion spreads further. The Japanese Buddhist saint and priest Saicho and the monk Kobo Daishi bring tea seeds and cultivation and manufacturing tips back from China and plant gardens in the Japanese temples.


First tea tax imposed in China

First tea tax imposed in China. Chinese poet-scholar Lu Yu writes the first book of tea, titled Ch'a Ching (The Classic of Tea) in timely alignment with Taoist beliefs. The book covers detailed ancient Chinese tea cultivation and preparation techniques.


Japanese emperor serves powdered tea

The Japanese emperor serves powdered tea, named hiki-cha from the Chinese character, to Buddhist priests.



The Chinese give tea give its own character: chía.


Tea planted in Buddhist temple gardens

A Japanese monk named Gyoki plants the first tea bushes in 49 Buddhist temple gardens. Tea in Japan is rare and expensive, enjoyed mostly by high priests and the aristocracy.

618-907 T'ang Dynasty

Tea becomes a popular drink in China

Tea becomes a popular drink in China for both its flavor and medicinal qualities.


Japanese priests studying in China carried tea seeds and leaves back

Buddhism and tea journey from China to Japan. Japanese priests studying in China carried tea seeds and leaves back.


Turkish traders bargain for tea

Turkish traders bargain for tea on the border of Mongolia.


Tea steps are defined

Now called Kuang Ya in the Chinese dictionary, tea and its detailed infusion and preparation steps are defined.


Demand for tea as a medicinal beverage rises in China

Demand for tea as a medicinal beverage rises in China and cultivation processes are developed.

350 A.D.

Erh Ya

A Chinese dictionary cites tea for the first time as Erh Ya.

2737 B.C.

Tea Discovered

The second emperor of China, Shen Nung, discovers tea when tea leaves blow into his cup of hot water (or so the story goes).