Marketing Tea In England And America

May 28, 2010

Modern Tea Art: A Look at Vintage Tea Graphics, by Gregory R. Suriano, is a colorful volume published recently by Schiffer Books. Both a historical survey of the wonderful images associated with tea over two centuries, and a modern guide to collecting tea graphics, it is the first tea book to cover printed paper collectible art. The following is excerpted from the book.
Some might consider the earliest "ad" for tea to be Lu Yu’s eighth-century Chinese book The Classic of Tea. Tea was similarly promoted in the first Japanese work, Eisai’s The Book of Tea Sanitation. But by modern definitions the first true advertisement for tea appeared in a newspaper, London’s Mercurius Politicus, in September 1658: tea, an "excellent drink … approved by physicians" was being sold at the Sultaness Head, a "cophee-house". Many coffeehouses indeed were beginning to offer chocolate and tea drinks by the 1660’s, and with the next century ads and broadsides were routinely advertising tea establishments or packages of tea.
Advertising for tea flourished in the nineteenth century, especially with the growth of mass-market periodicals in England and America due to innovations in printing (and tax reforms). In the pages of the Illustrated London News, notably toward the end of the 1800’s, one might find half- or full-page wood-engraved ads for such tea merchants as Lipton, United Kingdom, and Mazawattee, often with quite beautiful illustrations. Particularly in America, with the 1900’s advent of four-color photomechanical printing - and cheaper consumer goods with distinctive brand names, attractive packaging, and advertising campaigns - periodicals, both literary and home-oriented, were featuring numerous color ads for beverages and other food items. The Brooke Bond/Red Rose, Lipton, Horniman, Ty-Phoo, Tetley, and Salada tea brands for decades thereafter pitched their tea products to consumers in large color magazine ads.
One other essential element in the high profile of tea for consumers was the small tin or box of tea (as opposed to the large store bins) that could be purchased in retail shops by the average person. These tins, today among the most highly valued and collected of vintage tea items, were beautifully decorated, often embossed, and color printed with attractive art and brand-name logos. Some brands, notably Ty-Phoo, Lyons, and Brooke Bond, included collectible trading cards as premiums with their retail packages for much of the twentieth century.
In their efforts to promote their own tea trade business and popularize the drink, England’s East Indian Company published The Tea Purchaser’s Guide in 1785. This established a pattern for the next 150 or so years of tea merchants and importers - and cooperative associations related to specific tea-growing countries - promoting the product in general through their own pamphlets and books. English tea dealer Samuel Phillips Day published Tea: Its Mystery and History in 1878; W.B. Whittingham and Co. offered The Art of Tea Blending in 1882; in 1910, A Few Facts about Tea was printed for the India Tea Association. In the United States, Denver tea dealer John H. Blake wrote Tea Hints for Retailers (1903), and Thomas Phelan, president of the National Tea Association of the U.S.A., published Some Secrets of Tea, circa 1905. Japan, Ceylon, Formosa, and India have all advertised tea in England and America since the 1870’s. Japan began promoting its teas at world’s fairs, starting with the Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia, and followed with pavilions and teahouses in United States fairs of 1893, 1904, 1915, and 1933. Japan, especially aggressive in its marketing early in the twentieth century, established the Japan Tea Promotion Committee in 1925. The Ceylon Tea Syndicate Fund was founded even earlier, in 1886, followed by the China Tea Association in 1912. The first major campaign to promote India tea in the United States began at the 1893 World’s Fair with the appearance of the India Tea Association (Calcutta and London), and from the 1920’s New York’s India Tea Bureau sponsored posters, billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, and even animated cartoons (see Uk-ers, All About Tea, volume 2, pages 298 to 299, 302 to 318).
One of the most interesting examples of this trend was a radio program actually sponsored by the Tea Association of America. Tea, a 1930 booklet produced by the group, contains the music for "Over a Cup of Tea". This specially composed theme song was used as "the musical signature of the Tea Association Orchestra in their weekly programs."
In the 1700’s the English artist William Hogarth, famous for popularizing his paintings and drawings through engravings, created a number of works inspired by the new tea gardens of London. His well-known series of engravings Marriage á la Mode and A Harlot’s Progress each contain prints showing domestic scenes involving tea services, as do his oil paintings, Children’s Tea Party (1730) and The Strode Family (1738). George Morland, another Englishman, painted A Tea Party - set in the real tea pleasure garden of Ranelagh - in 1790, followed by an extremely popular engraving of the same subject in 1805 (re-created nearly a century later for a nostalgic Mazawattee tea ad). France’s Jean-Baptiste Chardin painted one of tea’s most reproduced images, Lady Taking Tea (1735), and in 1919 his countryman Henri Matisse painted Tea.
On the heels of these works came the printed images and designs created to accompany articles, illustrate books and magazines, provide information about tea, and simply to advertise and promote the drink in general or a company or brand in particular - all of which reached a large audience, with the intent to continually broaden the tea-appreciating public.
Early examples of promotional, informative published art are the series of aquatints on the commercial production of tea published in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts in 1821. In England circa 1840-1900, as the nation adopted "tea" as a daily practice, images of tea drinking accompanied articles and stories in the form of the era’s most popular illustrative format, black-and-white wood-engravings. In that heyday of illustrated periodicals and the social cartoon, British society’s love affair with tea and its cultural connotations were seen frequently in the pages of the Illustrated London News, the Graphic, and the humorous journal Punch - treated with consummate skill by such masters of wood-engraved illustration as John Tenniel, George Du Maurier, Charles Keene, Fred Walker, and Linley Sambourne. Articles about tea, accompanied by more prosaic wood engravings, proliferated in American and English magazines - for ex-ample, the series of six wood-engraved scenes for "Tea Culture in Assam" in Harper’s Weekly in 1875. Some of the finest English illustrated periodical advertisements during this period were tea-related, one excellent entry being the 1890’s Mazawattee ad titled "Matrons Who Toss the Cup and See the Grounds of Fate in Grounds of Tea". Perhaps the most famous paean to British tea-obsession in the latter half of the nineteenth century is the "Mad Tea Party" scene in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1866) - brought to immortal life by John Tenniel’s pencil (not pen or brush; he drew in pencil right on the woodblock) in partnership with the equally felicitous engraving tools of the Brothers Dalziel.
As the 1800’s drew to a close, a golden age of color printing produced not only spectacular chromolithographed book illustrations, but also postcards, trade cards, and all sorts of graphics that colored the efforts of tea promotion and appreciation. Numerous children’s books on both sides of the Atlantic featured striking chromos of playtime tea parties, with little girls and their friends, dolls, pets, and miniature tea-table settings.
Among the larger, most expensive, and more "artistic" vintage graphics are prints and posters.
Other collectible paper categories discussed and shown in Tea Art: A Modern Look at Vintage Tea Graphics include: Magazine Illustrations; Books, Booklets, Sheet Music, Trade Cards, Trading Cards, Postcards, Magazine Ads, Labels and Packaging, Poster Stamps, Matchbooks, Ink Blotters, and Leaflets and Flyers. Each category is beautifully covered in the book. Look for Tea Art: A Modern Look at Vintage Tea Graphics in bookstores, or contact Schiffer Publishing at (610) 593-1777; or visit their Web site,


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