Importers Of Fine Teas for Over a Century

In 1904, Boston businessman Mark T. Wendell assumed ownership of his uncle’s business, a firm that imported luxury products from abroad. With a degree from Harvard University just completed, Mr. Wendell settled in the Beacon Hill section of Boston and set up offices on nearby State Street. For many years he imported port, sherry, snuff, olive oil, coffee and rare teas to sell to the upscale clientele of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. One of his most popular items was a smoky China tea that was simply called “XXX”. These three letters were a common symbol of excellence and high quality from this era.

Over time, Mr. Wendell began focusing solely on the import of tea into his Boston waterfront offices. He wanted his signature, smoky tea to stand out from other Chinese teas, so he changed its name to HU-KWA (who-kwaa), in honor of the Chinese merchant Houqua, with whom his uncle had traded. Houqua was known for his honesty when dealing with Western Merchants, and goods bearing his stamp were deemed high quality. By renaming his tea after Houqua, he was telling his customers that he too was willing to guarantee the integrity of his products, a philosophy that is still practiced today by selecting only the finest teas available.

Mark T. Wendell died in January of 1967 at the age of 85, after which Elliot H. Johnson and his brother Alan purchased the company, and in 1999 Elliot’s son, Hartley E. Johnson, joined the business. From an initial listing of only 5 teas, including the legendary Hu-Kwa, offerings have expanded to over 80 estate grown specialty teas, signature tea blends, herbal & fruit tisanes. Additional product offerings include various imported packaged tea brands, tea brewing accessories and a wide range of varying styled teapots.

In 2009, the Mark T. Wendell Tea Company expanded operations and relocated to a new modern office and warehouse facility in Acton, Massachusetts. This new space has allowed for increased shipping efficiency, greater inventory control and a more controllable environment for tea blending and storage. As the world of specialty tea has expanded over the past few decades, current owner, Hartley, has embraced the philosophy of offering tea enthusiasts a focused line of teas and brewing accessories. By offering a streamlined list of loose leaf teas, products can be turned over quickly, ensuring that only the freshest teas carry the Mark T. Wendell name.

For over 45 years, it has been the Johnson family’s goal to carry on Mr. Wendell’s tradition of creating a superior tea buying experience by providing customers with the finest product, competitive prices, a distinct focus on product freshness and superior service. The joys associated with the simplicity of a high-quality cup of tea are endless.  


On the left, founder Mark T. Wendell and on the right, current owner Hartley E. Johnson