Posted in Kafevend Blog
In today's blog we're getting back on track for our series looking at the interesting and varied history of our country's favourite purveyors of tea and coffee (and cocoa!) This time, we are going to find out how Whittard of Chelsea became established.
Whittard was founded over a century ago in 1886 by a man named Walter Whittard. Born into a family of leather merchants, Walter saw that drinks like tea and coffee were the up and coming thing and that there was plenty of money to be made in their trade. He was quickly vindicated in his opinion when he set up shop on Fleet Street, as it didn't take long before he'd become a big name in tea. His talent for blending together different teas served him well, and soon he was forced to upscale in order to handle the increasing incoming business and moved to premises on Mincing Lane.
Alongside his larger shop, the move to Mincing Lane provided another bonus for Walter- it was also the site of the famous London Tea Auction. The auction dated back to 1679 and another building on Leadenhall Street, where the first auctions were held by the Brtish East India Company, which at that time held the monopoly on importing tea to Britain. These auctions were apparently little more than a shouting match, or at least appeared to be so to newcomers. In 1834 as the B.E.I.C. fell from grace and lost the tea monopoly (amongst lots of other things), the site was moved to Mincing Lane. Many tea merchants like Walter moved there wanted to be close to the auction house, earning Mincing Lane the nickname 'The Street of Tea'.
The business was eventually passed over to Walter's sons, Hugh and Richard, after his death in 1935. The brothers managed to find a new money making avenue when they established a mail order system, meaning they could sell the tea on a national scale, although they were soon in for tough times. World War II almost finished Whittard off as tea was requisitioned by the government and rationed. Bombing by the Luftwaffe also destroyed their shop and warehouse. It is testament to their drive and the overall wartime spirit in Britain that they managed to come back from almost nothing, reestablishing Whittard in the final years of the war and in the decades afterwards.
Today, customers are spoilt for choice when visiting either a Whittard shop, or the Whittard website. The site itself is great to look at and easy to navigate- trying to find a particular kind of tea out of the hundred or so on offer is a simple task when you can search by type, taste and origin. Whittard have also branched out into coffee and cocoa with plenty more on offer there. As if all that wasn't enough, you can also peruse a wide variety of associated paraphernalia: tea strainers, cafetieres, teapots and grinders as well as all manner of cups, mugs and saucers are on offer, to name but a few. If you're looking to add to your cup collection, or try a new brew this Christmas, you can't go wrong with Whittard!