According to Inc. Magazine the five characteristics of a great company name are that it should “stick” with those who encounter it; should tend toward brevity; be functional; tell a story; and invent a new language. Whether or not some of the better known tea companies have names that meet those standards is a matter of opinion, but it’s interesting to look at the origins of some of those names nonetheless.
Probably the simplest and most common way to come up a name for a company is to name it after the person who founded it. There are a number of well-known tea companies who have taken this route. Among them, Lipton (Thomas Lipton); Twinings (Thomas Twining); Bigelow (Ruth Campbell Bigelow); Tetley (brothers, Joseph and Edward Tetley); Ireland’s Barry’s (James J. Barry); India’s Tata (Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata); and Brooke Bond (Arthur Brooke) that is now sold as PG Tips. A variation on this this theme is Sri Lanka’s Dilmah Tea, which took parts of the first names of its co-founders and combined them into a greater whole.
Another popular theme, especially with several British tea companies, are names that reflect a specific place. They include the Devonshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire brands. On the other side of the Atlantic the name Luzianne is not as clear-cut until you consider that it’s merely a twist on the company’s home state of Louisiana.
Some tea companies may not rely on their founders or home base for their name but it’s not a stretch to figure out how they got their name. Republic of Tea styles itself as an actual republic (well, sort of) with ministers (employees), citizens (customers), embassies (retail stores).
Then there’s health. Tea’s potential health benefits have been in the news in recent years, but that’s hardly a new thing. Tea companies have capitalized on this connection for more than a century. Among them, Typhoo Tea, which got underway in 1903 and which takes its name from the Chinese word for doctor. For PG Tips the name started as Pre-Gest-Tee, which suggested that tea might aid digestion. This was later shortened to PG due to rules prohibiting health claims for tea and Tips was eventually added as a reference to the best parts of the tea leaf being used for the product.
For some tea companies, the origins of their name are even less obvious. Celestial Seasonings took its name from a nickname given to one its founders. Stash Tea derives its name from the private stash of high-quality teas that the captain of a tea clipper would set aside for his own use. Of course, if a name with real world significance doesn’t immediately spring to mind that’s okay too. Consider the case of Tazo Tea, whose name was suggested by a designer simply because it sounded ancient and exotic.
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