Posted in Kafevend Blog
It may surprise you to know that tea is grown here in the United Kingdom. Whilst it isn't much compared to the millions of tons produced elsewhere on the globe, the fact that it is possible at all considering our typical weather (or at least, our typical view of our weather) is cause for celebration. The tea is grown on the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, located right down at the far end just south east of Truro. Tregothnan set up a partnership with Waitrose to stock its tea in February earlier this year, and just last month established another partnership to supply tea to First Great Western trains. This is good news for the local economy, and also obviously for the Tregothnan Estate which will now be able to greatly expand its tea garden operations, which only got started in 2005.
First Great Western itself hasn't been around for that long, having only been established in 1998 during the privatisation of British rail. The name Great Western is used in memory of the original Great Western Railway, a monolithic organistion that had been around for more than a century, from 1833 when it was first founded, to 1948 when the British railway system was nationalised.
The GWR was orignally devised by Bristol merchants who wanted a trade route to London, in order to cement their position as the second great port in the country. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who had proved himself as a budding engineer in his work with his father on the Thames tunnel and his own design for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, was elected as engineer for the project. The Great Western main line was opened on 30 June 1841, but the company didn't stop there. By the time of nationalisation, the GWR owned almost 4,000 miles of track laid throughout the West and South West of England and Wales.
The GWR became known as "The Holiday Line", though this was not a name that the public had come up with. The company promoted itself as such in 1908 as it carried masses of people to holiday resorts in Wales and South West England. Some of the marketeers enjoyed stretching the truth- evidence of this can be seen in an advertisement that shows maps of Italy and (a slightly warped) Cornwall side by side, touting similar climates!
Great Western did not at first deal with refreshments, instead leasing the rights out to private companies, who weren't always reliable when it came to sourcing decent food. There were complaints back then that may not sound out of place today. Brunel himself complained about the coffee on sale at Swindon, and was not alone- Swindon became known as "Swindleum" for a time, as passengers had only ten minutes to get refreshments from the sub par food and drink on offer at the station! Fortunately for travellers, standards changed as Great Western took on the duties, introducing better quality refreshments both at the stations and on the trains themselves. The 1930s perhaps epitomised their dedication on this front as they introduced a number of incredibly swish, art deco-style buffet cars to cater to their passengers.
Whilst today's buffet cars aren't quite as flash as those built in Swindon in the 1930s, you're still able to enjoy a great cup of tea, especially now that our nation's own is to be on offer. If you've enjoyed this article, and happen to find yourself in Swindon at some point, we highly recommend you visit the Steam museum located in one of the old railway workshops that once sprawled across the town. Alongside the various exhibits you can find the amusing advertisement and the art deco carriages mentioned earlier. There's also a rather uniquely styled silver coffee pot used at the station in the 1840s- you won't miss it!