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Typhoo's Beginings

Typhoo's origins are located in Birmingham . By the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham had over sixty tea merchants selling mostly large leaf tea.

The founder of Typhoo, John Sumner, was born 26 February 1856 in Birmingham. His grandfather (William) and father (John) had established a grocery business in the Bull Ring in Birmingham.

In the early 1900s John Sumner senior, now in his seventies, left the running of the shop to his son. John junior was happy with the successful business but had long sought a speciality product to develop. The answer came from his sister Mary Augusta. She suffered from indigestion and had tried a special tea made from tiny particles, not the large leaf variety that was common. The tea brought her great relief from her indigestion and she approached John to suggest he sold the tea in his shop.

John decided to go ahead. He bought 30 chests of tea and spent 200 on advertising, even though his friends suggested he might be wasting his money. John decided that, instead of selling the tea loose over the counter, he would packet the tea under a brand name. 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

He finally settled on Typhoo Tipps. Typhoo meaning, in part, the Chinese word for doctor. The double p in Tipps was originally a printing error but remained misspelt on the packets of tea for many years.

Typhoo was the first brand of tea to be sold pre-packaged rather than loose over the counter. In order to encourage his customers to purchase the tea John gave away a jar of cream to each person that bought a pound packet. The tea quickly became popular and John's customers were becoming loyal to the brand that. Word of mouth recommendation from John's customers led beyond his regular clientele and soon other grocers were asking to purchase the Typhoo tea, inspiring John to set up his wholesale agency trade.