The Great London Tea Company was one of several Boston-based tea importers that operated in the late 1800s. Their offices were on Washington Street, one of the city’s busiest shopping areas, and located just down the street from Old South Meeting House.
A look into their sales brochure from 1887 gives us a look into the tea drinking habits of both New Englanders and consumers across the country. They had a very robust mail order business featuring teas from China, Japan, India and Formosa (now Taiwan) – all the main tea producing countries of the day with the exception of the new tea producing island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). They boldly claimed to sell more tea and coffee directly to consumers than any other house in the country.
Here is an excerpt touting their pledge to quality, even for their lowest priced teas:
There are no damaged goods among them. Many houses make low prices upon goods and purchase them from auction, goods that have been wet while on ship or damaged by fire and water while in storage in New York or Boston. Many thousand pounds were thrown on the market a short time ago – of this kind – damaged by the fire in New York.
The Great London Tea Company sold tea by the pound. Their price list included Oolong (which they called black tea), English Breakfast black, Japan green, Old Hyson, Young Hyson, Mixed Japan and Oolong, Mixed Hyson and Oolong and Imperial Green. All were priced from 50 cents to one dollar per pound, depending on the season of harvest.
Their Special Teas included Orange Pekoe and Assam blacks at $1.10 per pound. Oolong, English Breakfast, Black Japan (a new tea) went for $1. Their Mandarin Tea was one of their best offerings which they described as being “a black tea with green tea flavor.”
Assam tea (black tea from India) had only been available for 40 years in America because most black tea had come from China since colonial days. The brochure promise:
“This tea is grown in India and is similar to Congou (one of the teas tossed overboards in 1773) or English Breakfast, but much finer and growing in popularity every day.”
In September 1887, the company came up with a promotion that spurred sales to even higher numbers:
With every order for $4 worth of tea, we give a Majolica Teapot or a half-dozen silver plated teaspoons.
With every order for $10 worth of tea we give an English white china tea set of 45 pieces.
With every order for $20 worth of tea we give and English china dinner set of 106 pieces.
Is it any wonder why they sold much tea?
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