In 1706, Thomas Twining opened a little cafe on London's Strand that would go on to have a big future. That cafe's name? Erm... 'Tom's Coffee House'.
Yes, this British tea institution was originally set up to sell coffee.
Of course, it dabbled in other goods too: rare and exotic treats from the far side of the world. And most popular amongst these were Twining's fine tea blends.
The Twinings Tea Shop Is Born
Fortunately, Twining had a nose for what was selling. Within a decade, he'd stopped with the coffee and refocused his efforts where the real money was to be made. Tea.
And not just any tea, but dry packaged tea, tea that his clients could enjoy at home as well as in store. This was where Twining really made his mark.
A Hole In The Market
Back in the early 1700s, women weren't allowed in British cafes. This left a huge segment of the potential tea-drinking market largely untapped. At least, it did until Twining came along.
His dry packaged tea was something that women could enjoy too, albeit from the confines of their homes. With it, he had struck gold.
Twinings Tea Shops
The subsequent decades saw the business fluorish. Twining opened additional tea shops. Upon his death, his son Daniel took over, growing the business to new proportions by exporting tea to America. It was Daniel's son, Richard, however, who made the biggest impact on tea history.
Tariffs, Tax and Tea Dealers
Since before Tom's Coffee was even a thing, tea had been heavily taxed in Britain. So heavily in fact that illegal tea dealing had become rife.
Much like cocaine and the other illegal narcotics of today, tea leaves were smuggled into the country by the kilo. These untaxed leaves were cheap enough for the average punter to afford, but what they lacked in price they often lacked in quality too. It was not uncommon for faeces and other poisionous substances to be found amongst them.
Richard Twining put an end to this, however.
As Chairman of the London Tea Dealers, he was instrumental in convincing the Government that lowering the tariffs would make tea so much cheaper that legitimate sales would go up so much as to increase the profit that the government made from taxing tea imports.
As a result, the tax was lowered and quality tea made available to all.
Twining's The Brand
Richard Twining was also responsible for the creation of the Twining's brand. Before him, the Twinings Tea Shop had also been known by other names.
To begin with it was of course called Tom's Coffee House. The name was then changed to 'Golden Lyon'. Finally, however, in 1787, Richard renamed it 'Twinings'.
He had the famous gold and black sign and the golden lion of today's Twining's Tea Shop installed on the shopfront. And the rest is history.
Bigger On The Inside
The shop itself is something of a tardis. It's small, but iconic front gives way to a long, tunnel-like cafe, jam packed with teas from all over the world. Visitors can smell samples of each tea as they wander along the aisle, making for a truly aromatic experience.
One More Thing...
Twinings possess one of the oldest logos still in use. The classic capitalized font beneath lion crest has remained unchanged since its introduction in 1887. Only Stella Artois' logo predates it, having maintained the same red and white design with golden horn above since 1366.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our London Puzzle Tours - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of London.