Bewley’s Tea: Brief History

In Bewleys Tea by teadog.com2 Comments

Bewleys Tea, Dublin Ireland

Bewley’s Tea is one of Ireland’s most popular brands.  Here is a brief history of Bewley’s Tea.

Summary
Bewley’s was established in 1840 and is one of Ireland’s leading brands. Today, Bewley’s remains a leading household name and is Ireland’s leading supplier of quality coffees and teas. Bewley’s is best known for its cafes throughout Ireland.

History
Bewley’s is a historic company. In 1835, Charles Bewley imported the first tea into Ireland from China with over 2000 chests of tea. It was the first time tea was shipped direct to Ireland. In 1833, the monopoly held by the East India trading company was broken. Tea merchants all over the world were free to do business. Charles Bewley was the first merchant who exercised that freedom. However, it was Charles brother Joshua that founded the company that was to become Bewley’s.

Joshua set up as a tea merchant in 1840, and by 1850, his company, The China Tea Company, was boasting a large client base and brisk sales. In 1875, he moved the company and established a new trading identity there as Charles Bewley and Co. Tea Merchants.

Joshua’s son, Ernest, joined his father and brother, Charles, in the firm and worked long hours to build up the shop’s trade in tea, sugar, coffee and oriental decorative goods. When brother Charles emigrated in 1890, Ernest was left in charge of the firm.  Over the next 40 years, Ernest oversaw development of a new dimension to the business, the Oriental Cafes.

Ernest was a stickler for punctuality and honesty and his pursuit of quality and style was reflected in all aspects of the business. He hired the best continental bakers, dressed the cafes in a richly distinctive oriental decor and kept the menu simple: tea, coffee, rolls, sticky buns and eggs, poached, boiled or scrambled.

In his quest for perfection Ernest acquired a farm and started a Jersey cow herd that provided milk and cream of legendary quality for the cafes. He won prizes at the royal Dublin Show for cattle and butter, his smartly turned out horse drawn delivery vans and even his roses!

For business people and well-heeled shoppers, the Bewley’s cafes became favorite meeting places and, in true cafe society style, they were the haunt at various times of artists and writers such as James Joyce and Patrick Kavanagh.

Ernest Bewley’s decision in 1927 to embark on his most prestigious venture yet, a cafe in fashionable Grafton Street, was an affirmation of the family’s commitment to a city that had come through a period of great political and social change. Fitted out in the distinctive Bewley’s style, the new cafe had 6 magnificent stained glass windows commissioned from the artist Harry Clarke. Their rich kaleidoscope of colors still lends an exotic atmosphere to the ground-floor of the Grafton Street site.

Ernest’s death in 1932 marked the end of an era for the firm. Despite failing health, he had managed to see the Grafton Street project to completion but was denied the satisfaction of knowing that in ten years’ time the cafes would provide 40% of the company’s profits.

Victor, Ernest’s 20-year-old son, stepped into his father’s legendary shoes. Despite being a naturally shy young man, he quickly gained the respect of the staff employed in the three cafes, two bakeries, and a small chocolate factory.

The shortages of the war years brought further changes in eating patterns and a scarcity of tea resulted in an increase in coffee consumption, a trend that had become a permanent one by the 1950’s. Today Bewley’s continues to be a market leader in both tea and coffee. Maintaining strict control over sourcing and production, Bewley’s is your passport to the world of fine teas.

Comments

  1. Is Bewley’s Tea the same company of Bewley, Sons & Co., of 18-20 Henry Street, Dublin? This would be in the late 1800s or so.
    Regards

  2. Author

    Bill;

    We were not able to find out if that was their address. Sorry.

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