Commanding a solid 40% of the tea market, there’s a good chance this good ol’ bagged stuff introduced you to tea.
Remember those uniformed snobs from Pirates of the Carribean? That was the East India Trading Company, doing shady business a century before Sir Thomas Lipton came around. Then during the 1880s, a Scottish-born dude living in the States decided to carve out his own imperialist niche out of the corrupt Europe-Asia tea trade. He established tea plantations in Ceylon, Sri Lanka, and the next thing we know, it’s like Kleenex–the name is everywhere.
How did Lipton get so popular?
For starters, everyone in the 1800s was already drinking tea. (America had yet to wish on a shooting Starbucks and become the coffee nation that it is today.) Lipton simply capi-tea-lized on the existing demand by taking out the British middleman and importing directly. This lowered the retail price to a degree so magical that even Brits were loving it. He was able to export his stuff back to the very market that spat him out.
(While, of course, exploiting the Sri Lankans for cost-effective labor. Please don’t miss the irony that America, a former English colony, was colonizing other spots for tea. Nice job, guys.)
Fast forward back to 2014, and Lipton is on sale at the supermarket for less than what you’d pay a stripper.
Cheap tea = Popular tea
Popular tea, no matter what it tastes like, is still tea.
It’s become a Cool Kid thing to rag on Lipton, calling it “bad tea” because if we’ve become accus-tea-med to awesome loose leaves, the grocery store baggies taste weak by comparison.
Yet this inspires casual drinkers to inves-tea-gate better leaves. And if you’ve been sipping along with this blog, you know exactly where that leads.
Besides, when used properly–like in the Tea-torial linked above, or 5 ways to use nasty teabags–Lipton can be a handy tool.