Posted in Kafevend Blog

Tonight is Burns Night and across Scotland folk will be tucking into traditional fare such as haggis, neeps and tatties. Robert, or Rabbie, Burns was an eighteenth century poet who managed a prodigious output in his all too brief life. January 25th was his date of birth and his life and work are remembered and celebrated at the Burns Night suppers held in his honour. Although the food is often accompanied by a wee dram of whisky or two, we'd like to take this opportunity to focus on another of Scotland's favourite drinks – tea.

Although Burns himself appears to have been rather keener on whisky than tea, he would certainly have drunk many a cup. Tea had first been introduced in Scotland during the 1600s and by 1759, the year of Robert Burns' birth, its popularity was assured. Then, in the following century it was actually a Scotsman who introduced tea cultivation to Ceylon, or Sri Lanka as it's now known- the fourth largest producer of tea in the world today.

James Taylor grew up in the north east of Scotland, but in 1852, at the age of seventeen, went to Ceylon and worked on the estate of a successful coffee grower. Some years later he got the opportunity to travel to India and learnt all about the art of tea cultivation. Returning to Ceylon, he began to grow his own tea plants. When coffee blight ripped apart the coffee industry towards the end of the 1860s, Taylor was ideally positioned in his role as the island nation's foremost tea pioneer.  

Another Scotsman who became famous for his work in the tea industry was Thomas Lipton. Prior to focussing on tea, Lipton opened a grocery shop in Glasgow. He'd already learnt the secrets of success in a New York grocery store, having convinced his parents to let him seek his fortune in America while still a young teenager. The lessons he learnt in advertising and marketing stood him in good stead and in time he built up something of a grocery empire with over three hundred shops across the country. Now he turned his attentions to tea and decided that in order to make it more affordable for the average working class family he needed to cut out the middle man. Lipton travelled to Ceylon where he met and conducted business with none other than James Taylor. Once he'd secured tea estates of his own, Lipton had control of the whole process and promoted his product with the slogan: ' Direct from the tea garden to the tea pot.'

Demand for Lipton Tea was so great that it was soon being sold beyond his own grocery empire and he managed to corner the American market as well as the British. Although the big four in the UK tea market today are Tetley, Twinings, PG Tips and Typhoo, Lipton continues to be a huge force globally with sales in over 150 countries. All thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of one Scotsman.

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