Tea has many well-documented health benefits. One tea company even declares this in the name of its tea — “Typhoo,” from a Chinese word meaning “doctor.” It’s a tea that’s been around since the early 1900s and is still enjoyed daily by millions.

Modern medicine has only been around a relatively short time in man’s history. Many of the products in pharmacies and drug stores didn’t exist back in the early 1900s. So, what did people do when they had an upset stomach? Mary Augusta Sumner, sister of John Sumner who ran the family grocery business after his father retired, had indigestion problems. There was no pink liquid in a bottle, no pills to take a half hour before you eat, or ones to take right after. She tried a tea made from tiny leaf pieces, an alternative to teas brewed from full-leaf and broken-leaf teas popular at that time, and found it aided her digestion. Her brother started producing this tea for his store, packaging and naming it (“Typhoo Tipps Tea,” now simply “Typhoo Tea”) so his customers would know this tea was more than just great-tasting.

Typhoo Tea, Ltd., was incorporated in 1905 after Sumner had sold off his grocery business to pay some debts. This proved to be one of the better decisions for tea drinkers worldwide. The company made a profit in its first year, something that many businesses cannot boast. Sumner further reduced production costs, and passed his savings on to the customers through lower prices, by instituting changes in his business operations. He cut out some of the middlemen by dealing directly with a buying/blending agency in Ceylon that bought the teas that went into Typhoo directly at tea auctions and then started having those teas blended in Ceylon.

The company survived two World Wars. During the first one, they overcame government restrictions that would have doomed them, and retained the loyalty of their customers. During the second one, their factory was bombed, the government confiscated their tea supply, and they had to farm out production of their tea to other companies for awhile. In between the wars, Sumner had to deal with a quality control problem when he discovered that the agents in Ceylon were buying inferior quality tea but charging the same price for a higher profit. Eventually, tea blending operations were moved to England so they could keep a better eye on things.

Typhoo Tea, Ltd., carried on through the years, continuing to blend the finest teas, using only the leaf edges to get more cups of tea to the pound and avoid the stems which include tannin that can cause indigestion. Company ownership changed in the 1960s, again in the late 1980s, and once more in the late 1990s. Finally, in 2005 Typhoo and its associated brands were acquired by one of India’s largest tea producers, Apeejay Surrendra Group. Along the way, they continued to produce their wonderful, gentle-on-the-tummy tea but added some items to their product line: Typhoo One Cup, Typhoo Q Tea instant, the first green tea blend introduced to the UK market, and Typhoo Fruit and Herb.

Today, not only are Typhoo and similar teas very popular in England, but 95% of the tea Brits drink is bagged. Interesting to know, considering the increasing promotion of finer, full-leaf teas. Typhoo Tea’s Executives and Blenders are mostly like me — they like their tea strong with milk and sweetener. Smart people!

Time to steep up a potful and enjoy a cup or two with my hubby. Enjoy!

Learn more about the wonderful world of tea on A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill.

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