Until the late 1870s, most teas in Australia were sold in bulk. As with other dry goods, grocers were responsible for measuring out the amount the customer ordered. In late 1876, the Oriental Tea Company was founded in Melbourne by James Price Goulstone, selling blended teas from China, India, Java, Japan and Assam. The company introduced packaged tea, and newspaper articles describe an operation that employed a “large number of girls” to make and fill the paper packages. Their packet teas won a prize at the Paris World Fair in 1878.
The Oriental Tea Company’s packaged tea was promoted nationally, with “advertorial” style pieces in newspapers.
Why do so many people prefer the Oriental Tea Company’s Standard Packet Teas to all others? First, because the very best teas only are used in mixing; second, because the blending is carried on under the eye of an experienced tea taster; third, because a uniformity of quality can always be insured; fourth, because the tease are pure and unadulterated; fifth, because they are the perfection of science in tea mixing; and last, because you always ensure full value for your money when purchasing the “Royal,” “Challenge,”, “Standard,” and “Universal” mixtures of the Oriental Tea Company.
Other tea companies soon followed. In 1881 the Asiatic Tea Company began producing packaged tea in Sydney. The rationale, quoted by Jessica Knight in her thesis ‘A Poisonous Cup?‟ Afternoon Tea in Australian Society, 1870-1914 was that:
…tea being so universally used in Australia, the consumption consequently is very great, the weighing and packing of which takes considerable time meaning additional expense to every grocer doing even an ordinary trade, while in country towns where experienced grocers‟ assistants are difficult to be obtained, the weighing and packing of tea became a source of annoyance to the storekeeper – hence the great advantage to them in the use and general sale of packet teas.
Until the 1880s, most of the tea consumed in Australia was from China. However, a growing focus on using products from the British Empire led to the increasing use of Indian and Ceylonese teas. The promotion of these more patriotic drops cast aspersions on common Chinese green tea, suggesting it was often adulterated and of variable quality. By the end of the 1920s, Australians rivalled the English as the greatest consumers of tea in the world.