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The History of Tea Bags

Updated: May 27

What is the first thing you think about when you wake up or when you feel sleepy during office hours? Tea! How could one live without tea? Tea is not just a beverage; it is an emotion that tells the 4000-year-old history. Tea started off as a medicinal plant that treated several conditions, but once the taste hit the masses, it became the most consumed drink – only second after water. Over the years, the process of tea production has changed drastically and today, you will see a plethora of tea types marketed and consumed by people. What’s more interesting is that gone are the days when people bought loose tea leaves and stored it in glass airtight containers. Today, it is all about tea bags. In fact, 96% of all the tea today comes ready to be popped or dunked in the mug.

So, how exactly tea bags came into existence? Don’t worry, we will clear all your doubts. In this post, we are going to discuss the history of tea bags and how they become so popular all across the globe.


The Humble Tea Bag


There’s nothing more easy and convenient than using tea bags for making your favourite beverage. Convenience is the reason why tea bags are so popular. Dipping the tea bag in hot water or milk ensures to give you the delicious, natural taster without losing any of the tea’s beneficial aroma and nutrients.


Another benefit of preparing tea using tea bag is that it keeps the flavour of the tea as you want. Preparing tea using loose leaves makes it unfurling in the tea pot, and if not careful and the leaves steep for too long, it can hinder the taste.


While some people use an infuser or you can say a holed metal container to brew loose tea leaves, it is easier to use a tea bag.


A tea bag is a small, absorbent bag used to steep tea. The tea bags are filled with tea leaves and sealed. Some tea bags are open, allowing the brewer to fill it with the preferred tea.


The Origin of Tea Bags


The concept of tea bags originated in the belief that for tea to taste at its best, the leaves must be removed from the water after steeping. Convenience is another benefit that tea bags boast. With a tea bag, one can prepare tea directly in the drinking mug or cup, without the need of a strainer.


According to some historians, in 1908, Thomas Sullivan, a New York-based tea merchant began sending samples of the beverage to his consumers in small silk bags. Some of his customers assumed that just like the metal infusers, they have to put the entire bag into the pot, instead of emptying the content. This is when the idea of tea bags clicked.

Thomas Sullivan thought it would be great to sell tea in tea bags that could be easily dipped inside a mug or pot and thrown away without any hassle. He went on to make tea bags better. He replaced silk bags with gauze bags to allow the flavour and aroma to escape more easily. This was when the first purpose-made tea bags came into existence.


In the 1920s, tea bags were designed for commercial production, and it quickly raised in popularity in the United States. Merchants started producing tea bags in two sizes – a smaller bag for one cup and a larger one for a pot.



In a short time, manufacturers started producing tea bags from paper with strings attached, adding to the convenience of the brewers and drinkers. Over the years, tea sellers have experimented with different types of tea bags, from rectangular shapes to circular ones, different materials for the bag. They also ended up developing self-squeezing tea bags as well!


While the Americans were enjoying tea bags, the Brits, of all people, were suspicious of such a radical change in the tea-brewing process.


However, according to experts, WWII played a significant role in delaying the popularity of tea bags since there was a scarcity of materials. So, it was only after 1950 that tea bags really took off among the world.


It was an era of elimination of manual household chores. There was a surge in the production and promotion of household gadgets and appliances that would assist with the tedious household chores like washing clothes, mopping floor, drying clothes, etc.

When tea bags were introduced among the whole world, there was this all convenience factor tailing around it since people no longer had to clean the leaves from the pot.


So, basically, this convenience factor was really what furthered the aspiration for tea bags in the united kingdom.


Different Types of Tea Bags


At the time when the concept of tea bag was introduced by Thomas Sullivan, many tea merchants started experimenting with different materials for producing efficient tea bags. The materials included perforated and cellophane paper, gauze, and cheesecloth. It was the paper fibre that was concluded as the best material for packing tea. Before long, machine-sewn tea bags replaced hand-sewn tea ones as the industrial revolution kicked off.


Later, William Hermanson invented and patented heat-sealed paper tea bags, which he sold to the Salada Tea Company in 1930.


Previously, tea bags came in a ‘sack’ style of a paper bag. It was replaced by the rectangular style, which is still the preferred shape. Lipton Tea Company, in 1952, invented and patented the popular ‘flo-thru’ paper tea bag that has four sides intended for tea drinkers who love brewing their tea in mugs.


Tea Bags Today


Today, tea in tea bags comes in different flavours and aromas. Manufacturers have started introducing new flavours and types of teas in tea bags, giving brewers and drinkers more option to drink tea on the go.



These tea bags are bio-degradable, meaning they cause no harm to the environment when disposed. With that said, there are many diverse styles and types of tea bags being offered today, with a new one coming up on the market all the time.

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