Twinings Tea Shop
You can be forgiven for passing by one of London’s oldest and most famous shops without even noticing it. Twinings Tea Shop, located at 216 The Strand, is sandwiched between two modern buildings and is a throwback to an age when tea making and drinking was an art to be savoured!
Although now justifiably famous for its tea, Twinings originally started life as Tom’s Coffee House, one of the many coffee shops that populated the City of London in the 17th century. Coffee houses in those days were almost exclusively for city gents, who would discuss business affairs and conduct their business. Merchants from the same trades would congregate in certain coffee shops and competition was fierce.
Thomas Twining, having originally come to London from Gloucestershire to carry on the family business of weaving, saw that an opportunity existed in importing exotic products from the new world that included tea.
He saw his opportunity and in 1706 purchased Tom’s Coffee house and began to sell tea as well as coffee. Tea was becoming fashionable with the upper classes and wealthy people flocked to his shop in the Strand. Soon he began to establish a reputation and selling as much dry tea as wet tea, and to local coffee shops.
Tea in those days was heavily taxed and only the wealthy could afford it. High class ladies, denied by convention of entering the man’s world of a coffee shop, would wait outside Twinings while a man servant would go in and buy the increasingly fashionable to drink tea.
High Tea taxes were eventually dropped and in 1837 when Queen Victoria granted Twinings a Royal Warrant as supplier of teas to the Royal Household, the name of Twinings became famous the world over.
Twinings carries the distinction of having the oldest Company logo in the world in continuous use and being the City’s longest paying ratepayer, having occupied the same premises on the Strand since 1706.
For tea lovers a visit to Twinings is a must. They only sell dry tea to take away but they do offer tea tastings on request and have a small museum at the back of the shop which charts the story of this famous business, still owned today by the original family.