This advertisement is for tea manufacturing company, Lipton’s Tea. It features an illustration of an Indian woman dressed in jewels, alongside their trademark slogan promising a cup of tea ‘direct from the Tea Gardens to the Tea Pot’.

How did Lipton’s achieve success?

The ability to cut out the ‘middlemen’s profits’ was achieved in 1889 when Thomas Lipton purchased eight tea estates in Ceylon, which covered thousands of acres of land. By 1892, one million packets of Lipton’s Tea were sold every week in Britain. This was achieved by the sheer expansion of their estates, but also by Lipton’s commercial acumen. Lipton’s sold a standardized product available in various weights, appealing to a wide range of customer budgets.

Impact of growing demand and workers’ conditions

The rise in popularity of Lipton’s tea led to romanticised imagery of the tea industry that permeated the public consciousness. This was often reinforced by Lipton’s marketing campaigns, where sandwich-board men walked London streets dressed as Indians.[1] In this advertisement, the woman appears to enjoy apparent wealth as a plantation worker, contributing to an image of Lipton’s as a moral business.

However, this romanticised construct of the ‘tea garden’ strongly contrasts with the plantation workers’ reality. Typical working conditions were poor, involving long hours and isolation from local communities. Workers were often employed on penal contracts, which meant that if they left their employment they would be pursued and then punished.

[1] Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain, (London, 2002), p. 45.