Tea History in America and The Accidental Invention of the Tea Bag

From China to India and England, we’ve talked a lot about the history of tea from around the world, but we haven’t spent much time discussing tea in America. Sure, it was a massive point of contention and MIGHT have helped to spark the Revolutionary War against England. And yes, drinking tea might have widely been considered to be unpatriotic for many years as coffee surged in popularity. But Americans never really forget a good thing, and tea began to find a way back into our lives and homes again. Truth be told, it never really left as Americans filled the void not just with coffee, but also herbal teas infused with plants like dandelion and peppermint. Still, if American politics helped drive traditional tea out, then American ingenuity also helped bring it back.

While the rest of the world was content with loose teas, Americans wanted something simpler—they just didn’t know it yet. In 1908, Thomas Sullivan was a New York based tea-importer. He began sending out tea samples to his clients in tiny silk bags in order to cut down on costs, and interestingly enough, the clients just steeped the little bags rather than unpacking them. Word spread, and pretty soon, customers were more interested in the convenience of his little packets than dealing with bulk loose tea. Now silk was prohibitively expensive, so he began packaging and selling his teas in gauze instead and launched an empire. Instant tea was also briefly a thing starting in 1946, but let’s never speak of it again.

During most of the 20th century and whether it was served hot or iced, bagged teas were the norm in America. Yellow, white and green teas were increasingly hard to find, due to the People’s Republic of China’s ban on exports to the U.S. But when that lifted in 1971, ‘exotic’ teas began creeping back into America and gaining mainstream appeal. Eventually, the trend gradually reversed. People began to discover the joys of high quality loose teas again, the comfort of the ritual, and the surprising health benefits. And we’re thrilled with this. We love tea. That’s why we created SomruS to pair perfectly with traditional teas. It brings out complex nuances in nearly every type of tea. Though, it’s worth mentioning, since we’re a cream based liqueur, never mix us with citrus, even if that’s your cup of tea.