The Tea Industry in Canada

The Tea Industry in Canada

Importing and Distribution

Many industries directly related to tea have originated in Canada, particularly in the maritime provinces. One of the first, King Coles (G.E. Barbour), in New Brunswick, founded in 1867, still exists today. Also noteworthy is J.E. Morse & Co. in Nova Scotia, importers of tea since 1870, and sellers of the tea bag starting in 1939.

T.H. Eastbrooks was created in New Brunswick in 1894. Its special blend of Indian and Sinhalese teas was launched under the name Red Rose, registered in 1899. This company was one of the first to commercialize the sale of tea in small packets wrapped in foil. Until then, tea was sold in used wooden boxes. Soon the company opened branches in Winnipeg, Toronto, St. John's, Newfoundland, and Montréal. It started putting tea in bags in the 1930s.

In 1931, Eastbrooks was sold to the large English firm of Brooke Bond, which was itself bought in 1985 by the multinational Unilever, who then merged it with Lipton's. Lipton's then took over the marketing of Red Rose. This company installed a factory on Park Avenue in Montréal in 1948. In 1962 it was moved to Côte de Liesse, where it remains today. The parent company, Unilever, set up operations in Toronto.

Salada was founded in 1892 by Peter C. Larkin, a great traveller and antique collector. He took the name from a plantation in India. Larkin developed the concept of foil-wrapped packaging at the same period as did T.H. Eastbrooks. The great popularity of its products in the United States led the company to set up its headquarters and factory in Boston, while retaining a factory in Montréal. Towards the end of the 1950s, Salada moved to Little Falls, New York, where it remains to this day. In 1969, Salada was sold to Kellogg, which in turn sold it to Unilever in 1988.

A Parallel Industry

In addition to factories for importing and processing tea, Canada also has many industries indirectly related to tea. Starting in the 17th century potters and goldsmiths, among them Laurent Amiot, made various accessories related to tea. Then with industrialization came large ceramics factories, such as the Dion plant in Ancienne-Lorette and St. John of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Merchants who imported porcelain did very well, and many of them became wealthy by opening China Halls in the large cities. Many imported white porcelain tea sets and then had them decorated by local artists. Maritime transport also benefited from the economic fallout of the tea industry.

Importers, distributers, tea-bagging factories, potters, goldsmiths, importers of pottery and porcelain, grocers, etc., all these made tea an economically significant item starting at the beginnings of the colony, and increasing with the advent of the British regime.

©1996: Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Picture source: King Cole; G. E. Barbour inc.