Where’s London’s oldest…tea shop?
September 30, 2013
Opened in the Strand in 1706, Thomas Twining’s tea shop can still be found there today.
Twining, a tea merchant whose family originally hailed from Gloucestershire, started selling tea from what had been a coffee house – Tom’s Coffee House – in an effort to tap into tea’s growing popularity. It had apparently been introduced to England by Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of King Charles II, soon after the Restoration.
Amid resistance from other coffee house owners and despite high taxes on tea, Twining’s venture succeeded, attracting a wealthy clientele which apparently included Jane Austen, thanks at least in part to its location on the border between the City of Westminster and the City of London.
By 1717, Twining had purchased three houses adjacent to his coffee house and converted them into a shop which still stands today at number 216 Strand (the original Tom’s Coffee House was located behind this premises). He was soon selling more dry tea than wet at the sign of the “Golden Lyon”.
Following Thomas’ death in 1741, Twining’s son Daniel took over the business and by the mid-1700s, was exporting to America where he counted the Governor of Boston among his clients (but, apparently it was not Twining’s tea which was tossed into the sea at the Boston Tea Party).
It was Daniel’s son (and Thomas’ grandson), Richard Twining, who was successful in lobbying for the lowering of tea taxes and so paving the way for tea to become the commonly consumed drink it is today. It was also Richard who built the shop’s current entrance portal in 1787 incorporating the golden lion.
The Twinings shop today is the oldest in the City of Westminster while the company’s logo, which dates back to 1787, is the oldest commercial logo in continuous use.
Twinings, which since 1964 had been owned by Associated British Foods, was granted a Royal Warrant in 1837 by Queen Victoria.
For more, see www.twinings.co.uk.