Posted in Kafevend Blog
Here at the Kafevend blog we thought it might be time to take a look behind the scenes at some of our best loved tea and coffee brands here in Britain. Today we begin the series with a look at a company that has a long history and actually helped to introduce tea to Britain in its early days in our country- Twinings.
Twinings was the creation of the merchant Thomas Twining, born in 1675 in Gloucestershire. He was the son of a fuller, the latest in a long line of textile craftsmen. Due to an economic depression, his family was forced to abandon its home when he was just 9 years old and move to London. Twining originally decided to carry on in the footsteps of his forebears, becoming an apprentice to a weaver. He changed his mind however after becoming a Freeman of the City of London at the age of 26; meaning that he had earnt the right to trade in the city. Dropping his apprenticeship in weaving, he began working under an East India Company merchant named Thomas D'Aeth, and was soon getting his hands on some of the earliest tea shipments entering Britain thanks to his connection, as the East India Company had a monopoly on the trade of tea at the time.
Twinings Tea Shop
By 1706 he had enough confidence to try something new and opened Britain's first tea room along the Strand in London. Based in what was once a coffee house, Twining quickly found a market. Alongside his sale of brewed tea on site, he found that there was money to be made selling dried tea to people looking to make their own at home, and this part of the business soon outstripped the other. He even sold tea to competing coffee stores where it was slowly insinuating itself to become Britain's top drink- truly, we have Thomas Twining's cunning business sense to thank for tea's prevalence here! Thomas' first store at the Strand is still there today selling Twinings tea. It's now widely available in most supermarkets as well as various online retailers, such as Garraways Coffee & Tea Supplies.
An International Tea Business
Thomas eventually passed on the company to his son Daniel, who took Twinings to the international stage by exporting tea to America, including the governer of Boston- whether any of it ended up in the drink at the harbour during the infamous Boston tea party is another question however. Daniel in turn passed on the company to his son Richard, who played a hand in lowering the ridiculously high tax on tea in Britain as a consultant to Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. The Commutation Act passed in 1784 slashed the tax from 119% to just 12.5%, changing the marketplace for tea overnight and putting pay to a roaring trade in smuggled tea. As if having a hand in the government wasn't enough, Twinings were awarded a royal warrant from Queen Victoria herself in 1834, becoming the supplier of tea to our monarchs every since- they certainly have quite a lot to show for 300 years of business!