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100 years of the teabag Print

The teabag was invented by tea merchant Thomas Sullivan in New York City in June 1908. But if it wasn't for a handful of confused Americans, the tea bag may never have made it into our cups at all. They came about only after Mr Sullivan, in an attempt to cut costs, sent samples of tea leaves to potential customers in small silk pouch-like purses.


Unsure quite what to do with the strange little bag, the Americans dunked it into a cup of hot water. And so was born the tea bag. After complaints that the mesh on the silk was too fine, Mr Sullivan developed sachets made of gauze - a method which was instrumental in today's tea bag design. But it was not until 1953, when British tea producer Tetley spotted the commercial potential of the bag, that it began to take off here. The firm now sells 200million tea bags every week.


Further breakthroughs

A major breakthrough came in 1930 when William Hermanson - one of the founders of the Boston based Technical Papers Corporation - patented the heat- sealed paper fibre tea bag. But material shortages in the Second World War prevented mass manufacture, and Britain had to wait until after Joseph Tetley and Co was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1951 to welcome the tea bag revolution.


In 1964 the finely perforated bag was developed and the product began to fly off the shelves. In 1989 Tetley switched from the standard square bag to a round one, and a handful of years later it introduced the drawstring tea bag.


Sara Howe, Tetley's director of corporate communications, said: 'Persuading the British to change their tea drinking habits from loose tea to tea bags was never going to be easy. But when Tetley introduced the tea bag in Britain the adverts were quite simple: Tea bags were the new quick and easy way to make a delicious cup of tea for only one penny. It's hard now to imagine what life would be like without the tea bag. Somehow getting up in time to measure the tea leaves, brew the tea, strain it and clear away the tea leaves from the sink afterwards does not have the same appeal.'



3.125 number of grams of tea in the average tea bag
2,000 number of perforations found in the average tea bag
130 000 000 number cups of tea drunk every day in Britain

Early tea bags came in two sizes, a large one for teapots


sk/2008-07-28 13:02:00

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