Love it or hate it, the teabag is 100 years old this year. Invented by accident in 1908, it is now being reinvented by premium tea companies to provide a high quality tea experience with the convenience of the bag.
An Accidental Invention
At the turn of the 20th century, tea was much more expensive than today, highly prized by those that could afford it. In New York, each new cargo from India and China was eagerly awaited by tea traders and their customers, much as the latest wine vintages are snapped up today. When the latest tea shipment arrived in port, the tea traders would send samples of the new tea to their customers, using small metal tins to hold the tea. Legend has it that one of these tea importers, Thomas Sullivan, was unhappy at the high cost of the tin boxes. So in 1908 he switched to small hand-sown silk bags. Some of his customers just dropped the bag into hot water and found it brewed a very acceptable cup of tea. Realising how convenient a simple disposable bag could be, his customers started requesting the tea in this packaging, much to Mr Sullivan's surprise.
Worst Invention of the 20th Century?
It may be convenient but many tea lovers consider the teabag one of the worst inventions of the 20th century. The problem is that the large tea companies have resorted to hiding cheap poor quality tea inside the bags. Of course the taste is not as good as quality full leaf tea.