John Sumner senior, left the running of his grocery shop in the Bull Ring to his son. But he wanted more – he wanted to develop a speciality product. His sister, Mary Augusta, had tried a special tea made from tiny particles, which was a great help against her indigestion, and suggested that John sold this in his shop.
John bought 30 chests of tea and spent £200 on advertising – a lot of money in the 1900s – having decided to break new ground by packing the tea under a brand name instead of selling it loose over the counter. This was despite his friends saying he was wasting his money! He chose the name Typhoo Tipps – with Typhoo based on the Chinese word for doctor.
• The name must be distinctive and unlike others
• It must be one which would trip off the tongue
• It must be one which could be protected by registration
Typhoo was sold with the slogan “The tea that doctors recommend” and stocked by chemists’ shops, with medicinal qualities ascribed to the purity of its leaf-edge tea. The stalk was also cut out to remove tannins that caused indigestion. We made a small profit in our first year.
1906: John Sumner starting selling Typhoo branded teapots and including circulars on the benefits of the tea and picture cards on a range of subjects inside the packets. These are still collectable to this day!
1909: Typhoo was making money by now, and John paid off all his debts. He travelled to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to look into buying the tea directly from the auctions and moving his blending requirements over there. This reduced costs to the public and Typhoo continued to grow in size and popularity.
Tea rationing began, with the government buying up all available tea and distributing limited amounts to retailers at a fixed price. However, Typhoo couldn’t be made from the government tea supplies. After requests for the supply of leaf-edge tea were turned down and an appeal by 4000 medical professionals ignored, it all came down to Typhoo’s loyal customers. They wrote to the Tea Controller in their droves telling him Typhoo was a medical necessity – he eventually relented and granted a permit for Typhoo to trade in leaf-edge tea throughout the war.
1932: John Sumner was knighted in recognition of his charitable services in education, literature, art, research and hospitals. Always one to thank his hard-working staff, he celebrated the honour with a party and a bonus for all his employees!
1930s: Following problems with the quality of tea from Ceylon, a new agent was appointed and house blending equipment was moved to works in the Birmingham Canal Basin. From 1934, we began to employ our own tea taster and blenders.
1934: John Sumner passed away, and J R Hugh Sumner was elected chairman.
Later in the decade, we teamed up with Schweppes to form a new company, Typhoo Schweppes. We were later joined by Cadbury to create Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo.
1968: We became part of Premier Foods, and that meant new products! The selection now included Typhoo QT and Typhoo One Cup.
We launched our award winning Typhoo Gold and Typhoo Extra Strong as part of our passion for premium black teas. We also launched our revolutionary eco-refill packs, saving 92% of packaging. Our other green commitments have included our factory at Moreton, Wirral, being Zero Waste-to-Landfill since 2011.
We’re also helping the community by funding Disability Sport events and training across the UK, and more recently we’ve been working with the NHS on their Big Brew campaign, which aims to tackle the stigma around mental health by getting people to sit down and talk about their problems over a cuppa. After all, a great brew is a great catalyst for great conversation!