An iconic house of tea

If you were to make a list of famous tea companies, Twinings Tea would probably be on it. Its teas are sold around the world and are known for their quality and high standards. And, as official purveyor of tea to the British royal family, its products have to be good! So when I was in London, England recently, I was curious to see the original shop of this 300-year-old tea company.

Thomas Twining opened a store at number 216 on The Strand in1706, first starting out with coffee and moving into tea when the leaf beverage became more popular. The company got its Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1837 and invented the now famous blend of English Breakfast in 1933. And, after 300 years and ten generations, the Twinings family is still involved in the business.

I entered the white doorway with two Chinese men sitting on the lintel above (to show tea’s origins from China) and discovered the shop to be quite small. Packaged teas and coffees were lined up for sale along the walls in the narrow hall in the front, with a tasting bar and mini museum in the back.

The museum included packaging of the company’s teas over the years, as well as 18th-century tea caddies, 19th-century tea cups, and 20th-century advertisements.

At the tasting bar, I was served three varieties: a white silver needle tea, a Darjeeling oolong, and a Ceylon. The silver needle’s taste was very subtle and the Ceylon was somewhat astringent, but I preferred the Darjeeling, which was quite smooth and flavourful.

As I was about to leave, it began to rain, so I decided to stay for another tasting, this time a Lapsang Souchong and a Russian Caravan, both described as smoky. But where the Russian Caravan had a hint of ash, the Lapsang Souchong was overwhelmingly acrid (definitely an acquired taste).

What a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in an iconic tea shop!