The Story


The legend of TIA MARIA dates back to the mid-17th century, when a beautiful young Spanish aristocrat fled the turmoil colonial war brought to the island of Jamaica. Her maid saved one family treasure, a small jewelry box with black pearl earrings and an ancient manuscript with the recipe for a mysterious liqueur. The recipe was named after the courageous woman: TIA MARIA. It was then rediscovered in the 1950s by Dr. Kenneth Leigh Evans, who began to produce and market it. Still made to the original Caribbean recipe by ILLVA Saronno and distributed in over 60 countries, TIA MARIA is an exotic infusion of natural vanilla and the finest fresh coffee roasted to perfection, complemented with a touch of Jamaican rum. Rich copper and golden amber tones blend with an enticing caramel nose to make TIA MARIA an ideal mixer in exotic cocktails.



17th century

A fascinating story – During the mid-17th century, the colonial wars brought turmoil to the island of Jamaica. A beautiful young Spanish aristocrat making her home there with her family had to flee from the island, leaving behind all of her possessions. While escaping, her courageous maid managed to save one of the family’s most important treasures; a small jewelry box containing both a pair of black pearl earrings and an ancient manuscript with the recipe for a mysterious liqueur. In recognition of the great courage and devotion shown by the maid during the war period, the daughter chose to dedicate the recipe to her. And that’s how the liqueur got its name: TIA MARIA.



Curious Dr. Evans – Then in the 1950’s, Doctor Kenneth Leigh Evans tasted TIA MARIA at the home of some friends. The original and unmistakable taste of the liqueur caught his imagination – so much so that he promptly decided to produce and market it. TIA MARIA became a brand that began building a fine roster of loyal customers.



Allure of the 80’s – However, what really launched TIA MARIA on an international scale in the 1980’s was its first television ad campaign. Thanks to the sensual beauty of Iman – famous supermodel and wife of British rock star David Bowie – TIA MARIA acquired an exotic image and introduced a new generation to the mysterious dark liqueur. Today, this ad – with its enigmatic “dark spirit” strap line – is still remembered.



Renovated strategy – In July, TIA MARIA was acquired by ILLVA Saronno S.p.A and part of its production was moved to our distillery in Saronno, Italy.



What’s next – Now, bringing the story right up to date, TIA MARIA reflects the intriguing style of the modern world ; an exotic blend of trends, ideas, cultures, and thinking. Still today, TIA MARIA preserves its sophisticated taste, while remaining true to its original charm that caught the attention of Dr. Evans and many others.

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