Product Index

 Courtesy Daniel Sartori 

Courtesy Jeremy Kay


Tea, Coffee, Cocoa and Drinking Chocolate Products

Tea, Coffee & Grocery Products

It was during their first catering contract at the Newcastle Exhibition of 1887 that Lyons first gained its reputation for quality tea. Before the turn of the century a modest tea blending operation was started at Cadby Hall, London. This not only supplied their own teashops and restaurants which were springing up, but was sold via their bakery vans to the retail sector. It was not until 1903, however, that the first official production records started. At the same time the company began to sell packaged ground coffee but this was not as popular as tea, which grew phenomenally. Cocoa production started in 1908 and this led to drinking chocolate in 1909 and confectionery lines after the new Greenford factory came on stream in the 1920s. By 1922 a number of tea blends were being sold: Red Label, Green Label, White Label and Blue Label. Later these were augmented with: Stripped-Green Label, Mauve Label and Buff Label.

After the First world War Lyons bought the Hornimans and Black & Green tea companies, primarily to improve their sales in the north of England, and new brands were added. The Black & Green company got its name from an original mixture of black (cured tea) and green (uncured tea). This blend was a transitional stage in the development of the British taste for tea, which moved from a preference for green, Chinese-style drinking during the eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries to the cured (black dried small leaf) teas of today. In the early 1930s Lyons acquired Depass (Diffusion Européenne des Produits Alimentaries Sélectionnés) through their French holding company, Lyons SA. They sold Lyons teas to the retail and catering sectors in France. By 1978 the company was a food broker with a national sales force of 32, with warehousing and administrative backing centred in Pierrelaye, near Paris. They were responsible for the sale of Lyons teas and teabags packed in Jersey by Overseas Trading Corporation, Lyons herb teabags, Lyons chocolate drink for the catering trade and Tetley tag-less teabags packed at Greenford. After Hooimeijer (a subsidiary cake maker based in Holland) became part of the group Depass took on the sale of their Stereo and Haust brands.

Special teas were blended for the Corner Houses and Lyons had their own distinctive blend for supply to the teashops. This blend was always kept a secret and was never sold to the public despite a continuing demand for it. The introduction of coffee extract was, for a time, successful and Lyons' Bev brand sold well during the war since it was quick to make and had added sugar, a rare commodity in those days.

After the Second World War the Tea Division went through a number of administrative changes and in 1970 became a decentralised company known as Lyons Groceries Limited; the name reflecting the product range now being introduced alongside tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate and confectionery products. In 1967 instant tea was developed but was ever a success.

In 1972 Lyons bought the Tetley Tea Company at a time when consumers were showing a preference towards teabags. Tetley was developed rapidly so that by the 1980s Lyons Tetley Ltd, as Lyons Groceries Ltd had become, was dominant in the British teabag market. There was, however, a corresponding decline in the loose, packet tea market hence the diversification into bread and cake mixes, cereals and flavoured infusions. Ground coffees became more specialised with emphasis placed on country of origin of the coffee beans and, as a UK first, Tetley introduced the coffee bag.

This list, which goes up to 1990, is not comprehensive. There is uncertainty about the dates of the early tea blends. It was not until the mid 1960s that company activities began to be reported in the house magazine Lyons Mail. The list does not include those instant coffee products manufactured and sold by Sol-Cafe Ltd. Promotions and packaging changes have been largely ignored.

Tea, Coffee, Cocoa and Drinking Chocolate Products


First official records of Tea and Coffee production

White Label tea

This was one of the first blends. The earliest prices available (the date is not known) are: Yellow Label at 8d per quarter pound, Blue Label at 8d per quarter pound and Green Label at 9d per quarter pound.

1909 Aug

First official records of Drinking Chocolate


Orange Label

Priced at 1/3d per quarter pound.

Red Label

Priced at 1/2d per quarter pound

Green Label

Priced at 1/1d per quarter pound

Blue Label

Priced at 1/- per quarter pound.

Yellow Label

Priced at 11d per quarter pound


In 1921 an advertisement shows that the following teas were for sale., Orange Label and Yellow Label appear to have been dropped.

Red Label

3/- per pound

Green Label

2/8d per pound

White Label

2/4d per pound

Blue Label

2/- per pound


Lyons' Coffee & Chicory Extract


Black & Green


Black & Green Dividend

Bought by lower income group.




Named changed from Lyons' Coffee & Chicory Extract.


Blue Label

Priced at 1/- per quarter pound. During the 1930s, perhaps before, Lyons sold 2d packets (less than 2 oz) of Blue Label tea


Yellow Label

Priced at 11d per quarter pound. During the 1930s, perhaps before, Lyons sold 1d packets (less than 2 oz) of Yellow Label tea.

Premium Dividend

Dividend Stamp


Lyons Pure Ground Coffee Aroma Sealed

It is not known when this coffee was first produced. It came in a green tin with a black panel on which was written in yellow Lyons Coffee. Between this lettering was written in green Pure Ground. On the bottom quarter of the tin written in yellow was Aroma Sealed and underneath that Half Pound Net. Price is not known.

Courtesy Steve Joynt


First Lyons teabags on sale

Horniman Dividend


Dividend Tea (Promotion)

Heavily promoted with toys, comics and games

Primo Promotional toy

1967 Oct

Quick Brew

Offer for glass teapot. First in the World. Four stars from tea packets plus 34/6d. Mrs Harold Wilson, wife of Prime Minister presented with one.

1968 Jan

Tea & Biscuit Sales Merged under John Gluckstein


Lyons French Coffee

Lyons Coffee Original Blend


Lyons Coffee American Blend

Price 4/7d.

Lyons Coffee Continental Blend

Price 4/7d


Lyons Coffee Columbian Blend

Lyons Coffee Kenya Blend

Very light roast medium grind coffee. 8 ozs tins design and images evocative of country of origin. Price 4/7d.

Lyons Coffee Brazilian Blend

Medium roast medium grind coffee. 8 ozs tins design and images evocative of country of origin. Price 4/7p.

1970 Jan

Quick Brew Indian Blend

Predominantly an Indian tea. Launched by Indian high commissioner.

Lyons Premium

Black & Greens Tea.

1970 Mar

Tea Division becomes Lyons Groceries Ltd. John Gluckstein MD, Frank Merry, Chairman.


Quick Brew Tea Bags

Bigger Tea Bags. In sizes 36 bags, 72 bags and 144 bags.

1971 Sep

Silver Label Tea

First major new brand for 10 years. Aimed at cheaper end of market but no dividend stamp. Quarter pound packs.

Quick Brew

Launched in half pound packs.

Lyons Treble Dividend Tea

Lyons Orange Label

Lyons Red Label

Hornimans Economy Dividend

Tetley Spoonful Tea Bags

A one-cup teabag. 100 teabags per box.

Tetley Flavour-Flow Teabags

Sizes 18 bags, 72 bags, 144 bags and 288 bags.

Lyons Premium Gold

Black & Green tea

Tetley de Luxe with Tags

Size 36 bags.

Tetley Blue Tea bags

Two cups can be obtained from one teabag

Tetley Red Label Tea Bags with Tags


Coffee Bags

Experimental coffee bags introduced.

1973 Jul

Coffee Tins

New design.

1974 Mar

Tetley Teabags

Re-launch with new logo and pack design

1974 April

Coffee Bags

Launched nationally. Made from pure ground coffee and dried coffee extract with 60 beans to each bag. Four minute infusion time. Packs of 39 for 42p. (initial launch packs had 3p off).

1974 May

Lyons Tetley Silver Label Tea

Low priced quality tea. A substitute for dividend teas. Sales hit £1 million in five months.

1974 Jul

Tetley Tea Folk

Launched on National television by Lyons Tetley. First created by Wyatt Cattaneo Animation Studio.


Lyons 250 Superior Teabags

2-3 cup teabags.

Lyons Quality Tea

3lb pack.

Lyons Economy Tea

3lb pack.

Lyons Superior Tea

3 lb pack.

de Luxe Curzon Teabags

In 120 teabag cartons

Superior City Teabags

In 250 teabag cartons and 500 Polybag packs.

Economy Country Blend

100 teabag cartons and 400 Polybag packs.

Lyons Premium Tea

Hornimans Premium Tea

Black & Green Premium Tea

1974 Nov

Lyons Coffee Viennese Blend with Fig Seasoning

Price for 8 oz tin 41p.

1975 Mar

Quick Brew New Pack Design

1975 May

New Packs for Premium Teas

Lyons Premium Tea, Hornimans Premium Tea and Black & Green Premium Tea.

1977 Jun

Silver Label Tea Bags

Test marketing in Midlands TV area commenced in June. Frank Auton Silver Label's brand manager. Price 67p per 72 bag pack. Packed in red and silver pouches.

1977 Sep

Ground Coffee and Roasted Barley

Launched to try and combat the rising cost of coffee. £1.19 for 8 oz tin was said to be one third less than other quality coffees and made more cups per tin. Philip Robinson Lyons Tetley brand manager for coffee.

Small Pack Coffee Bags

Now available in 4 oz packs which contain 20 bags for 80p.

1980 Jan

Changeover to metrication weights - lb packets became 125g, just over 10% more. lb became 250g and teabags were packed 40 to the carton instead of 36, 80 instead of 72 and 160 instead of 144. Prices increased by 10% to take account of the additional tea in the products. Imperial weights continued until 29 June 1980.

1980 Sep

Filter Coffee

Filter coffee introduced in resealable 8 oz tine. Silver and Brown design. Complements the 4 oz sachet. The first Lyons Tetley to carry a bar code.

1981 Jan

Economy Teabags (Caterers)

New catering range of teabags launched. In packs of 100, 500, 1,000 and 2,000. One cup size.

1981 Feb

Tagged Teabags

These were produced for the hotel trade when tea making facilities were offered in guests' rooms. They came in a small envelope with Tetley Tea printed on them. The tea blend was Indian.

1981 May

Coffee Beans

Coffee beans test marketed by Lyons Tetley for first time. Launched in Southern TV area. New range includes Brazilian, Keyan and Continental blends. Packed in 4 oz foil pouches (to make about 20 cups). Recommended price 60p. Brand Manager Philip Robinson. Coffee bean market hitherto dominated by specialist coffee shops.

Pure Gold Instant Coffee

A range created for Lyons Tetley Catering. Pure Gold was a quality freeze-dried coffee.

Special Blend Instant Coffee

Special Blend was a traditional powder.Packed in 500g and 750g tins.

Continental Blend Coffee

Continental Blend was coffee and chicory.Continental 500g tin.

1981 Jun

Hornimans Speciality Teas

Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong. All available in packet and teabag except Lapsang Souchong which is packets only.

Lyons Tetley Catering Division restructured as a beverage only operation with concentration on: teas, coffees (including instant coffee), fruit squashes, fruit juice, instant milk, non dairy cream, equipment, filter papers, coasters and advertising material.

1981 Sep

Filter Coffee Aids

Filter cone and filter bags launched. Filter cone was 102 size. Filter bags 40 per pack

1988 Jul

Decaffeinated Teabags

The first decaffeinated teabag from a large manufacturer in the UK. Containing less than 0.2 per cent. Price 31.29 for a pack of 40 bags.

Special Reserve Teabags

Consisting of 70 per cent top-quality second flush Indian teas from Assam which was only available for about six weeks of the year. Packaged in oval drum in red, black and gold.

1989 May

Round Teabags

The World's first round teabags. took five years research.