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.
During the decades that followed, Mr. Wendell decided to change the focus of his business and began importing only tea into his Boston waterfront offices. He wanted his 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 eventually goods bearing his stamp commanded higher prices because their quality was guaranteed. 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, and Mark T. Wendell Tea Company’s current owner, Elliot H. Johnson, purchased this prestigious Boston tea firm from Mr. Wendell’s successor in 1971. From an initial listing of only 5 teas, Elliot and his son, Hartley E. Johnson, have expanded to offer wholesalers close to 75 estate grown specialty black, pu-erh, green, oolong, white, organic, decaffeinated, herbal and fruit teas. In addition, several classic offerings are custom tea blends that are carefully crafted by hand using formulations that have remained unchanged for decades. Additional offerings include various imported packaged tea brands, tea brewing accessories, sugars 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, the philosophy of offering wholesale customers a focused line of teas and products has remained. By offering a focused 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 40 years, it has been the Johnsons’ goal to carry on Mr. Wendell’s tradition of creating a superior wholesale tea buying experience by providing customers with the finest product, competitive prices, a distinct focus on product freshness and superior service.