Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thomas Lipton created the tea empire

It is the birthday of British merchant Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton (1848), who created the Lipton tea empire and also became well known worldwide as a yachtsman. He had humble beginnings in Glasgow, Scotland, where he parents ran a small grocery. At 15, he came to the United States and worked odd jobs for five years, then returned to Glasgow and opened a small grocery and eventually expanded across Britain. He introduced tea bags and sold tea to the working poor. To get a better supply lines and prices, he bought tea plantations in Ceylon, fruit farms, jam factories, bakeries, and established bacon-curing operations in Chicago. He was knighted in 1898 for his business success. He was an avid yachtsman, competing for the America’s Cup for five years, starting in 1899. He never won but was so endeared to the American public he received a special cup for the “best of all losers,” and, in the process, his tea became famous in the United States. Lipton donated heavily to support the wounded during the Spanish-American War and World War I.

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