Accidental genius to a T
While most people might associate tea with the British, it was an American who invented the tea bag in 1908, and entirely by accident.
New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan, decided that it was cheaper to send small samples to potential customers in silk bags instead of boxes. Some assumed that the silk bags were supposed to be used in the same way as metal infusers, putting the entire bag into the pot rather than emptying the contents.
Customers soon started requesting more of Sullivan’s ‘tea bags’.
Thomas Sullivan is best known for inventing tea bags, but the true title could rightly go to two women from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roberta C. Lawson and Mary Molaren. In 1901, they patented what could be considered the first true tea bag, the ‘Tea-Leaf Holder.’
The British were initially wary of this new innovation after hearing horror stories about being served tepid water with a tea bag on the side, so it wasn’t until the 1950s that tea bags took off in Britain. By 2007, tea bags made up 96% of the British tea market.
Image credits: André Karwath