W. H. & F. J. Horniman and Company


Horniman Tea is important to the history of tea drinking: by the end of the 19th century they were one of the world’s largest tea trading companies. John Horniman set up a small business on the Isle of Wight in 1826. At this time tea was sold loose from tea chests and could easily be adulterated. Later in his career he came up with an innovative idea: he started packing the tea into sealed and labelled paper packets with a guaranteed net weight. Apart from keeping the tea leaves fresh and safe, another advantage was that Horniman could use the packet for advertising. The public reacted favourably and the business went from strength to strength until Emslie Horniman sold the firm to J Lyons & Co bought the firm in 1918 or 1919.

The brand then apparently passed from Lyons to Douwe Egberts at some point in the 1950s, '60s or '70s; Douwe Egberts was bought by Consolidated Foods in 1978, becoming Sara Lee in 1985; and Sara Lee then split their international tea and coffee business into D.E Master Blenders 1753, the holding company for Douwe Egberts, on 4 July 2012.

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Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: enquiry@horniman.ac.uk