The storied history of one of the world’s most popular tea brands began in 1878 with a forward-thinking entrepreneur named Sir Thomas Lipton. Driven and dynamic, Lipton was once a ship’s cabin boy who saw opportunity where others saw obstacles.
He purchased tea plantations in Sri Lanka and set about packaging and shipping high-quality teas directly from tea gardens to tea pots at low cost, offering the British working-class their first sip of affordable tea.
These days, the Lipton brand continues to thrive under the Unilever umbrella, in the spirit of excellence which its founder inspired.
In Malaysia, Lipton accounts for 23% of the tea market and worldwide, Lipton is the No 1 hot tea brand, sold in more than 150 countries, with a whopping 150 billion Lipton drinks enjoyed every year.
Lipton recently relaunched its Sir Thomas Lipton range of teas in Malaysia, which encompasses six variants – English Breakfast, Earl Grey, green tea, green tea with jasmine, chamomile and peppermint.
According to Angeline Ho, marketing manager of Unilever Food Solutions Malaysia, the relaunch is a nod to the range’s new packaging and the fact that it is now part of the Rainforest Alliance, which promotes sustainability.
“The relaunching is to showcase the packaging change. Even though we are selling the same range of products, the look and feel is totally different – it now has a more premium look.
“Also all the teas in this range are now fully under the Rain-forest Alliance,” says Ho, adding that despite the makeover, the price of the teas remain the same (RM11.25 for the teas and RM11.93 for the infusions).
The brand’s commitment to the Rainforest Alliance is reflected in its programmes on its tea estates all over the world, like the primary and secondary education given to 16,000 workers and their families on Lipton estates in Kenya.
This is an important facet of modern business as consumers have become more discerning and are more likely to purchase food and beverages that don’t weigh heavily on their conscience. The Rainforest Alliance promotes this and is an independent organisation that works with individuals and companies to ensure crops are grown and managed in three ways that provide – environmental protection, social equity and economic viability.
“Lipton was doing sustainable work before the Rainforest Alliance. In Kenya, we were already providing housing. But the Rainforest Alliance had certain standards that we had to make sure our suppliers complied with.
“Because Unilever is a large player, we were able to convince our suppliers to come onboard as well, and by and large, they were willing to do it,” says Simon Ferguson, Lipton’s Tea Master.
The Sir Thomas Lipton range of teas are all available in tea bags, which is fitting as Lipton was the first to introduce tea bags to the world. Ferguson says there is a bit of a misconception about tea bags, as people seem to think they have less flavour and intensity than loose leaf teas.
“There is essentially no difference in terms of the teas. So if you’ve got a box of loose leaves and a box of tea bags, the base of that tea is the same,” he says.
Ferguson also says that while there are no hard and fast rules to brewing and enjoying a good cup of tea, some steps should be observed to ensure maximum satisfaction.
“The rule of thumb for making tea is to always use fresh water. If you keep re-boiling water, your tea can end up having a different taste.
“After boiling water in a kettle, you should let it sit and wait for about two minutes, so the temperature will drop from around 100°C to 95°C. Once the water is at the right temperature, it depends on how strong you want the tea to be, whether you leave the tea leaves longer or not.
“That part is totally up to you,” he says.