Lujeri Tea Estate

Groceries and Confectionery

Ready Brek

BritishPathe video of H.R.H The Prince of Wales visit to Greenford tea factory 1928

Courtesy Peter Moore



It was the quality of tea which first brought Lyons to public notice at the early exhibitions. So successful was the tea they offered that Lyons decided to blend and pack tea themselves from a small department in the newly acquired Cadby Hall. The earliest record of tea packing goes back to 1895 soon after the first teashops were opened and these of course gave a ready outlet for their own blend. Initially composed of no more than a half dozen staff the Tea Department became one of the largest and profitable departments of the company. Year on year the blending operation grew so that by 1920 a completely new factory had to be built to satisfy the growing demand. Tea in chests (and coffee bean in bags) was unloaded from freighters into barges before being towed up the Thames as far a Brentford Lock and thence by canal to Greenford Dock. Here customs would check the cargo and duties were paid as the chests were opened and used. Greenford was an extremely large, efficient operation with overhead conveyors and its own railway system which not only served Greenford but connected to the Great Western Railway network to take finished product to markets across the Kingdom. In order to have better control of its raw material the company bought tea plantations in Nyasaland (now Malawi) but most leaf tea came plantations in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) but increasingly from other parts of the world. Coffee too was roasted and sold in air tight containers and when the technology became available instant coffee supplemented this. Lyons employed their own tea blenders who controlled the quality and purchasing of raw material. The various tea blends were all named after colours such as, White Label, Red Label, Yellow Label and Green Label. One of the more prestigious labels was Maison Lyons which was sold exclusively in the food halls of the Corner Houses. In 1918, to increase market share in the north of England, Lyons bought the old established tea firm of Horniman & Sons. They operated from a factory in the City of London and had a considerable export business. Black & Green of Manchester was bought at the same time and for the same reason. When the Tetley Tea business was acquired this made Lyons one of the largest tea blenders in the country and they dominated the tea-bag market when this began to develop after the Second World War. From the Greenford tea and coffee factory, Lyons also produced a range of grocery products such as cereals, chocolate, candies, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, custard powder and liquid coffee concentrate. By the 1970s many of these subsidiary products had been discontinued and by the 1980s tea-bags were outselling packet tea and this too was eventually dropped.

 © Peter Bird 2002


Tea packing - each machine weighing and filling 90 packets of Lyons Tea per minute

A 50 gm. packet of Lyons Yellow Label Tea packed for the French market and dated late 1920s to early 1930s. Compared with the UK this is a very small quantity with the packet measuring 3" x 1.5" x 1.5". In fact it may have been a sample blend. The outer packaging is silver paper presumably giving more moisture protection. Lyons Tea (Thé) was first distributed in Paris in the early 1900s by Jules Pettit.

 © Peter Bird 2006

Courtesy Peter Bird