By William I. Lengeman III
You don’t have to be a tea drinker to know the name Lipton. It’s a household name, probably more so than any other brand of tea and is one of the most popular ones on earth, especially if you consider that it’s currently available in more than 110 countries. But how did this all come to pass?
It would probably take a book or three to effectively tell the Lipton story. Fortunately for anyone who is interested in this saga, author Michael D’Antonio tackled this topic with his recently released work, A Full Cup: Sir Thomas Lipton’s Extraordinary Life and His Quest for the America’s Cup.
When it comes to writing about well-known moguls in the food and beverage business, D’Antonio has some experience, having previously penned a biography of famed chocolate maker Milton Hershey. Lipton’s tale is one of rags to riches, beginning with his childhood in Scotland and continuing with a stint in the United States. It was here that he learned the retail business, knowledge that came in handy when he returned home and built a chain of successful grocery stores.
Lipton next turned his hand – with similar success – to the product that his name is still associated with today. At the point when his grocery empire was nearly at its peak – around 1890 – Lipton took a vacation to Australia, which included a stopover in the island nation of Ceylon, off the coast of India.
Tea growing was in its infancy here, following the downfall of the coffee industry due to diseases that wiped out the crops. Deciding that it might be useful to cut out the middleman, Lipton bought four plantations here for a reasonable price and the rest, as they say, was history.
A history that’s covered in D’Antonio’s book, though tea-fancying readers might be interested to note that a good bit of the book deals with a cup of a decidedly different sort – Lipton’s nearly obsessive pursuit of boat racing’s famed America’s Cup.