Thomas Twining started selling tea from his coffee shop just off Strand in 1706. Tom’s had a library and was ‘…a place renowned for its polite and scholarly interests’.
Twinings is still run by Thomas’s family. Over the years they have sold tea to Jane Austen, Sir Christopher Wren and Winston Churchill.
The distinctive doorway, with its Chinese figures and golden lion, dates from 1797. The Twinings logo, chosen in 1787, is the oldest in continual use.
On entering Twinings London shop, the first thing you notice is the wonderful aroma of tea. The essence of 300 years trading is infused in the walls.
The long, narrow store is lined with dark-wooden shelves, stacked top-to-bottom with all kinds of teas, infusions and tea paraphernalia. Above are portraits of generations of the Twinings family. Thomas was painted by William Hogarth, supposedly in return for tea.
At the back of Twinings shop is an excellent range of speciality teas. A table is set out with different brews to sample. Staff will make you a free cup of any of the tea on the shelves; a great way to try something different.
I tasted the High Mountain Oolong from Taiwan. I am just discovering oolong tea. Drunk without milk, it is lighter than black tea and more full-bodied than green.
On leaving Twinings, is well worth taking a short walk through Devereux Court, a few steps away. This is the original site of Tom’s coffee shop which was opposite The Grecian (now the Devereux pub).
An important meeting place for 18th century scientists including Issac Newton, Edmund Halley and Hans Sloane, who would repair to the Grecian after meetings of The Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge. Much intellectual discussion and assimilation of ideas took place in coffee houses or ‘penny universities’ as they became known (a penny being the price of admission).
Twinings is a great place to buy loose-leaf tea. It is popular with tourists and can be a bit crowded; so try to visit when quiet. The friendly and knowledgeable staff are happy to talk tea and the history of the shop.
Stephen Twining, takes a hands-on interest in his forefathers business, and had popped in the week before I visited. So go for a free cuppa and you may even bump into Thomas’s descendant.
|Prices :||Free cuppa. Tea to suit every pocket.|
|Service :||Friendly, but try and go mid-week when not so busy|
|Kitty says:||Great range of teas, intriguing history. Loose leaf at back of shop on left|
|Address:||Twinings and Co Limited
London WC2R 1AP
Places for a Cup of Tea near Twinings, London