The founder of Typhoo, John Sumner, was born 26 February 1856 in Birmingham where his grandfather (William) and father (John) had established a grocery business in the Bull Ring.
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 criteria he placed on choosing a name for his tea were:
• 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.
1910s - 1930s
1910s: 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.
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.
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!
1934: John Sumner passed away, and J R Hugh Sumner was elected chairman.
Typhoo Tipps became the first brand to be sold pre-packaged rather than loose over the counter.
The 1940s - 1950s
1940s: Rationing of tea began again and continued for another 12 years. Our factories were devastated by bombing and an emergency blend was packed by Messrs Brooke Bond Ltd and Lyons Ltd, but by 1941, a limited amount of genuine Typhoo tea was made available thanks to the hard work of employees.
With tea rationing ended, we used various promotional campaigns, including reintroducing picture cards, to the delight of our customers!
More tea was bought from India, a shipping department was introduced and new packing machines were installed to cope with demand for Typhoo.
1960s - 1980s
We became the number one – the brand leader! By the mid 1960s, we were annually packing a huge 80 million pounds of tea and exporting to 40 countries worldwide.
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.
1986: Typhoo was sold in a management buyout and the new company was called Premier Brands. The company immediately set about increasing its tea business with the purchase of the famous Scottish tea company, Melrose’s, in November 1986. This was the first of four acquisitions made by Premier in 1986-7. The second purchase was the Glengettie Tea Company followed by Ridgways of London and Jersey Trading Corporation SrL.
Significant profit improvement was a key feature of the following years. Premier continued to expand its tea operation by acquiring the herbal tea market leader, London Herb & Spice (later to become London Fruit & Herb Company).
1990s - 2000s
Premier Brands was bought by Hillsdown Holdings and then in 1999 by American venture capitalists Hicks Muse Tate and Furst. Further product developments were seen in 1999 when Typhoo became the first tea brand to introduce a green tea blend to the UK market and, in 2004, with the launch of Typhoo Fruit and Herb.
On 31 October 2005 Apeejay Surrendra Group, one of India’s largest tea producers, acquired Typhoo and its associated brands. This was a great thing for the company as it gained stature and knowledge from the new vertically integrated business model and allowed the team further control and understanding of the tea production and processes. The new board agreed on one primary focus; investing significant time and effort into improving the quality of our blends to once again become the primary source of knowledge and innovation in the hot beverages marketplace.
The TTL portfolio of products continued to grow and flourish whilst the Great British love of this world renowned beverage stood strong. With innovation in mind, the team continued to impress with great skills and finery in tea selection.
2010s - 2020s
2010s: 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.
January 2021: We re-launched the Typhoo Tea Shop, this time on Shopify. Key new features include ApplePay and GooglePay and far better mobile device support, rationalised SKUs (removing legacy products) and courier calculated shipping. This has also enabled us to start shipping Internationally to new destinations which were not possible on the old site.
July 2021: Typhoo Tea Limited has welcomed a new shareholder on board in Zetland Capital, a London based Private Equity firm, which has taken a majority shareholding. Current shareholder, Abercross, has also expanded its shareholding.
Des Kingsley, CEO at Typhoo says: “This deal marks a new era in the ownership of Typhoo Tea. It has secured major investment that will enable us to reassert our brands both in the UK and internationally to deliver profitable growth."
November 2021: Typhoo appointed former Clipper Teas CEO, Mike Brehme, as its new chairman.
Brehme joins Typhoo Tea, following a business restructure last year.
“We have a renewed focus on our brands at Typhoo Tea. Mike’s experience of creating and nurturing an incredibly successful international brand, without forgetting the importance of people and the planet, will be invaluable to our plans,” Typhoo Tea CEO Des Kingsley said.