The Teasmith Tales at Glasgow's Mackintosh at the Willow
Last year was busy for us at The Teasmith HQ. Our Scottish gin is showing face in more lovely places than ever and we are thrilled to now be stocked in Mackintosh at the Willow on Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street. We are always happy to have our gin in a new stockist, but this one is extra special because of its fascinating history. Our gin is one of only two being served in the Willow Tea Rooms and you can also pick up a bottle in the shop. But why are we so excited about this?
Well, The Teasmith Gin is of course distilled with hand-picked Ceylon Tea, and who was the first man to grow Ceylon Tea? James Taylor. And where was James Taylor from? Aberdeenshire, of course. But what has James Taylor, 'Father of Ceylon Tea' got to do with MacKintosh at the Willow? Well, Thomas Lipton, a Glasgow man, commercialised the tea which Taylor grew.
In the 1860s, Ceylon mostly produced coffee, nobody really had much interest in tea. But nowadays, Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of tea. This was totally down to the dynamic duo of Taylor and Lipton.
When James Taylor arrived in Ceylon, he started working for a large coffee grower. It wasn't long before he was in charge of his own estate which was being cleared for more coffee. To diversify his crop, he was also put in charge of cultivating cinchona, and bark from the cinchona tree is used to produce quinine. Quinine is used to make tonic. A really interesting connection!
The first tea seeds were given to Taylor for experiments and his original tea garden covered only 19 acres. Some of those original bushes still produce tea today.
When a fungus struck the islands coffee trees in 1869, they were wiped out within a few years. As their other main crop was quinine, that seemed like the obvious replacement. But too much production flooded the market and spoiled the businesses chances of making any real profit. So following Taylor's lead, they opted for tea. At this point, Taylor was beginning to get his 'Father of Ceylon Tea' status as many local farmers turned to him for advice.
In the 1870s and 80s, Ceylon's tea industry boomed and with that, came a great deal of interest from British companies. Four of the estates on the island were purchased by Thomas Lipton. Lipton grew up in the slums of Glasgow, a son of poor Irish immigrants. He left school at 10 to support his family before sailing to America, where he went on to manage a New York grocery store. He came back to Glasgow at the age of 21 and opened his own Scottish store.
Lipton took great interest in tea and obviously saw an opportunity. At the time, tea was expensive and most couldn't afford it. Lipton cut out the middlemen to reduce teas overall cost. Using his experience in marketing and advertising, Lipton decided to package his tea in bright-coloured eye-catching packets. Tea, at the time, was sold loose from a chest. Lipton's ventures in tea turned out to be a great success.
The Teasmith Way
What a great connection that James Taylor 'The Father of Ceylon Tea' and Thomas Lipton revolutionalised the staple of British tipplery. And now our gin is served and sold in the beautiful MacKintosh at the Willow tearoom and shop, in Glasgow. We couldn't think of a place where our gin could be more at home.