You, Me, and a Cup of Tea

What We Can Learn About Branding from Tetley Tea

As someone who holds a deep appreciation for the ritual and artistry of tea, I’m always eager to explore stories that blend my love for this timeless cup with lessons in creativity and innovation.

Today, let’s steep ourselves in the story of Tetley, a brand that has mastered the art of innovation, leaving a lasting impact on how we enjoy our tea.


  • 1908: The idea of the tea bag is accidentally born when New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan sends out samples in small silk bags, and customers brew the tea directly in them.
  • 1939-1940: Tetley brings the tea bag concept to Britain, revolutionizing tea time with machines known as ‘grey ladies‘ that stitch 40 bags a minute.
  • 1953: Tetley introduces the tea bag to the UK, making it easier than ever to brew a quick, delicious cup of tea.
  • 1968: The popularity of Tetley tea explodes, with sales reaching 5000 tons a year.
  • 1973: Tetley introduced some fun characters like Gaffer and Sidney to make us love their tea even more. That year, another company, J Lyons, bought Tetley.
  • 1989: Someone at Tetley noticed that the bottoms of mugs are round. Tetley innovates again with the launch of round tea bags, perfect for the modern preference of brewing tea in mugs.


Step 1: Observe and Listen
Start by paying attention to how your customers use your products or services. What changes are occurring in their habits or preferences? Tetley noticed a shift towards mug brewing and responded with round tea bags.

Step 2: Embrace the Accidental
Sometimes, innovation comes from unexpected places. Don’t be afraid to explore and potentially pivot when a new, unplanned opportunity presents itself, much like the accidental invention of the tea bag.

Step 3: Engage and Educate
Use your brand’s story and characters, like the Tetley Tea Folk, to connect with your audience on a personal level. This builds a loyal community around your brand.

Step 4: Keep Iterating
Innovation isn’t a one-time event. Keep refining your products and services based on feedback and changing trends. Always ask, “What’s next?”

Step 5: Lead with Purpose
Ensure your innovations align with your brand’s values and mission. Tetley’s innovations always aimed to enhance the tea-drinking experience, staying true to their core identity as a brand.


As we reflect on Tetley’s legacy of innovation, it’s clear that the path to becoming a brand innovator is both art and science.

It requires a keen eye for observation, a willingness to embrace serendipity, and a commitment to continual improvement.

Let Tetley’s story inspire you to brew your own innovative ideas, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth.

Remember, every sip of tea holds a lesson in patience, attention, and the transformative power of simple changes.

So, as you continue on your journey of brand innovation, may your cup always be full of inspiration and insight.

Until our next tea-inspired exploration, keep drinking tea and innovating.

Wishing you all my very best always,


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