Twinings Strand Shop Museum
216 Strand, London, United Kingdom
www.twinings.com/home.php - 0844 324 5000
Twinings Strand Shop Museum London Reviews
Fine place to appreciate Britain's tea obsession Oct 02, 2014
The British are renowned for their love of tea. It's not so much a national pastime as it is a nationwide obsession, whether its burly builders slugging breakfast tea in greasy spoon cafes or genteel aristocrats 'taking' it in the afternoon alongside tiered silver-platters loaded with finger sandwiches and pastries, you'll find people drinking the stuff just about everywhere.
If you want a glimpse in to why and how this came about, then pop in to this curious, cosy little place on the Strand. Twinings are one of Britain's leading tea manufacturers, but can also claim to be one of its oldest, being among the first to import tea from China. The store, which has been located here since 1717, acknowledges the Chinese link and heritage of drinking tea (they did it centuries before the British had even heard of it) with the two Chinese figures that sit guard over the entrance.
The smell is probably the first thing you'll notice: a heady infusion of all sorts of herbal, fruity, green and black teas vying for the attention of your nasal senses. Some of the gift sets and tea-making devices are outlandishly expensive (it's free to go in to just browse, by the way), but the standard boxes of teas are more reasonably priced - certainly more than they were back in the 18th century, when tea was strictly the preserve of the social elite. Best of all are the jars with free samples you are allowed to open and smell-test, with everything from Vanilla and to forest fruits to poke your nose in to.
The back of the shop has a place where you can do a taste test of some of the tea varieties: I didn't do this as I was rather hoping to be able to sit down with a cup of tea. The unavailability of this is a real shame. But by way of compensation, you get the quaint little museum, which traces the history of the Twinings company and features assorted curios such as Victorian tea caddies, books referencing the tea industry, various ornaments and, best of all, the wooden 'T.I.P.' box. This stands for 'To Insure Promptness': the idea being, in London's old coffee houses, you put money in to motivate the staff there to serve you quicker. In short, boxes like these are where the modern practice of tipping began.
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