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History of Twinings

Explore over 300 years of innovation, creativity and masterblending expertise. For us, tea is more than just a drink. It's been part of our daily lives and the lives of generations of tea lovers.

1662.  Catherine of Braganza introduces tea to England

Tea was officially introduced to England by the young Portuguese wife of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, in 1662. She served it to her aristocratic friends and soon tea became the fashionable drink of the day. 

1684.  Twining Family Moves To London

The Twining family originate from Gloucestershire where they held occupations as weavers and fulling millers. Despite their close ties with the countryside over many centuries, recession drove the family to London in 1684. Nine year old Thomas Twining who was going to be the founder of the tea business went with them. In London, he initially followed in his father's footsteps by taking up an apprenticeship with a London weaver. Attaining a trade was an essential to becoming a Freeman of the City of London - the key to any future business career. The ambitious young Thomas Twining became a Freeman in 1701 at the age of 26. By that time he had turned his back on weaving and was learning a new trade working for a wealthy merchant and handling some of the early shipments of tea.

Thomas learned his skills from an East India Company merchant, Thomas D'Aeth. At that time, the East India Company was importing many exotic new products from around the world, including tea.

Catherine of Braganza

1706.  Thomas Twining purchases Tom's Coffee House

Thomas was fascinated by the possibilities offered by this fast-growing beverage. He learned well and quickly and by 1706 knew enough to strike out on his own. It was in that year he bought Tom's Coffee House on London's Strand and so began the world famous tea business.

The location of the shop was perfect. The coffeehouse straddled the border between Westminster and the City of London, an area that was newly populated with the aristocracy as a result of the Great Fire of London.

Coffee houses were now a popular feature of London life. Men - but never women - of all classes would gather there to drink, to gossip, and to do business. Coffee shops gathered a loyal clientele by specialising in particular products or by encouraging customers with common interests. Poets, for instance, would go to one establishment, army officers to another. At that time popular drinks were gin, ales and coffee and people would even drink these at breakfast because the water was so contaminated. Thomas Twining took full advantage of this.

1707.  Thomas Twining Opens The Golden Lyon

In a time when coffee was king, one man, Thomas Twining, went against the tide to share his love of tea. His passion would turn a little-known drink into the nation’s favourite hot beverage.

Knowledge of tea gave Thomas Twining a competitive edge over other coffee houses. Despite high taxes and opposition from vested interests, the fashionable classes flocked to buy tea from Tom's Coffee House.

Competition between coffee houses was stiff. Fresh ideas and unusual promotional twists were what kept the business alive. The difference at Tom's was the tea.

Concentrating on tea showed great insight. Thomas knew it was a drink with great potential. Despite efforts to repress tea-drinking through ridiculous taxes, tea became increasingly fashionable during the early part of the eighteenth century, especially among the upper classes.

Soon Thomas Twining was selling more dry tea than wet. He even sold it to competing coffee houses. But only the wealthy could afford to drink tea. In 1707, Twinings Gunpowder Green Tea sold for a price that is equivalent to £160 for 100g in today's money.

The custom of the day discouraged 'women of high class' from entering the masculine world of the coffee house. But Thomas Twining was fast building a reputation for selling only the finest teas - teas that well-heeled London ladies were eager to serve in their drawing rooms.

Convention may have prevented these ladies from stepping inside Tom's Coffee House, but it didn't stop them waiting outside. While they sat in their carriage and their footmen would buy the sought-after tea.

Portrait of Thomas Twining

Which still hangs at the Strand today - was painted by William Hogarth. The family story goes that William was a loyal customer. Being a young struggling artist, he was having trouble paying off his tab for the tea he had purchased from the Golden Lyon. Eventually it was agreed that Hogarth would paint Thomas. The result can be seen when you visit the store today.

1717. Thomas expands Strand

By 1717, Thomas had acquired three adjacent houses and converted them to a shop. In those days there was no numbering but it was this house that is now number 216 Strand, the famous Twinings shop that exists today. This was probably the world's first dry tea and coffee shop. After 300 years, the Twinings shop on the Strand is better than ever before.

Join the team for a Tea Masterclass or sample one of our delicious teas at our state of the art tea bar.

1741.  Daniel Twining Takes Over

By the time of his death, Thomas Twining was serving customers with royal connections. His son, Daniel was the first Twining to export tea. His ledgers show that in 1749, Twinings tea was being sold to America. The Governor of Boston was a customer. The Governor's tea seems to have got through without mishap. When, a few years’ later, American patriots’ dumped English tea in Boston harbour, a distinguished writer noted: “…it was not Twinings tea the Boston rebels tossed into the sea.” With success came expansion. 

1762.  Mary Twining

Another interesting heroine in the history of Twinings was Mary Twining née Little. She was married to Daniel Twining, son of Thomas. In 1762 when Daniel passed away, she took over and ran the business for 21 years until 1783. It was unusual in those days for a woman to run a business. At the time, taxation on tea peaked and a lot of tea was smuggled into the country from France and Holland where it wasn't taxed as much. In order to maximise their profits smugglers would adulterate the tea in order to turn 1kg of tea into 2kg.

Mary wrote a diary towards the end of her life and noted that it was her proudest achievement to have stuck to her commitment of only selling finest quality teas. She must have been a great teacher as her son Richard I. successfully continued the business.

1771. Richard Twining

Richard Twining took over from his mother in 1771. Richard's knowledge of the tea trade was supreme. At a time when tea was high on the political agenda, his negotiating skills made him a natural choice for Chairman of the London Tea Dealers.

Richard Twining

1784.  The Commutation Act

As head of the tea trade, Richard had the ear of William Pitt, the Prime Minister. He argued persuasively that revenues would be greater from lower taxation. High levels of duty only served to encourage smuggling. Pitt listened and he acted. The Commutation Act of 1784 slashed tea taxes and at last made tea affordable to all. This marked the beginning of tea-drinking as part of everyday life and in that fact the tea revolution!

1787.  Twinings chooses its logo

In 1787 Richard Twining I., Thomas’s grandson, commissioned the entrance way which you can still see today. It depicts a golden lion and two Chinese men as well as the new Twinings logo. The lion is lying down which is interpreted as a sign of respect towards Richard’s grandfather Thomas, the founder of the business. The two Chinese to the left and the right if the lion represent the trade with China. For a very long time China was the only country of origin for tea. Today, it is the oldest commercial logo that has been in continuous use since it was made

1830s.  Bespoke Blends

Thomas's great grandson Richard II offered bespoke blends at the Golden Lyon. Accounts of customers’ very own blends can be found in the Twinings archives. Jane Austen wrote in her diary that her mother sent her to London to pick up Twinings tea.

1837. Queen Victoria makes Twinings an official Royal Warrant holder

In 1837, Queen Victoria granted Twinings its first Royal Warrant for tea – she appointed Twinings as supplier of teas to her household. Twinings has had the honour of supplying every successive British Monarch to date.

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1910. Twinings opens its first shop in France

1933. Twinings first blends its famous English Breakfast

1939.  Tea During The War

When World War II broke out, neither bombs nor rationing could halt the flow of morale-boosting cups of Twinings tea. Tea-rationing, which had been introduced the year before, also failed to damage the business.

Twinings continued to supply wartime Britain with tea. Twinings produced tea for Red Cross prisoner-of war parcels, for the Women's Voluntary Service, and for many YMCA wartime canteens.

1956.  Twinings makes tea bags for the first time

1972.  Twinings becomes the first company to win the Queen's Award for Export

2004.  Save The Children

In 2004 we started working with the fantastic charity Save the Children and 10 years later together we helped over ½ million children in tea growing communities. Find out more about how our work makes a social impact in the world.

Save the Children charity

2004.  Everyday Tea

We launched our world famous Everyday Tea and ever since it has brought everyday luxury to the globe.

2007.  Twinings 300 year anniversary

2009.  Twinings.co.uk goes live

2010.  Relaunch Green Tea range

2010 was the year that Green Tea boomed in popularity and we re-launched our Green Tea’s to include more innovative and inspiring blends like Mango & Lychee and Orange & Lotus Flower.

2011.  The Earl of Grey

We were the first to invent Earl Grey following the voyage from China made in 1831, and in 2011 we asked the Earl to come and sign our pack to re-make the mark from all those years ago.

2011.  Twinings Facebook

We entered the social world! Twinings is on Facebook.

Twinings launches a Tea Academy scheme which involves the amazing folks at head office spending a week in tea growing regions around the world experiencing the quality and expertise of the Twinings process from field to cup.

2012.  Relaunch Infusions Range

2012 was the year we re-launched our Infusions Range. This included over 20 new exciting products including liquorice, apple tea, ginger and buttermint. New, exciting and leading the world into the tea revolution.

2013.  Tastebar at 216 Strand launches & A surprise for One Direction

The 216 Strand shop was renovated to include a loose tea tasting bar so customers could come in and try all the wonderful teas we produce. If you're ever in the area go, it’s a must see!!  For more information see here.

One Direction loves Twinings!! Niall Horan declares his love of our fruit and herbal Lemon and Ginger Infusion so we created his very own personalised box. Find out more here! We love you 1D!

2013 saw the launch of our luxury Signature Range which was personally created by our very own team of Master Blenders. They travelled the globe in search of the finest ingredients to create the finished blends. Read more here.

2014.  Twinings Brand New Website Launches

We have our brand new website that brings Twinings into the 21st Century and it works on your tablets and smart phones, too.

2016.  Queen's 90th Birthday

2016 was the year when we blended a very special Queen's 90th Birthday Tea at the request of Royal Warrant Holders association in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's.

2017.  300 Year Anniversary Golden Lyon

Our flagship store at 216 Strand celebrates its 300 year anniversary. Today the shop entrance at 216 Strand is listed as a monument and Twinings has the oldest brand logo in continuous use in Great Britain.

Have you ever wondered how Twinings is pronounced? The correct phonetic spelling is /ˈtwaɪnɪŋz/.

History of Twinings Tea

Find out more about the history of tea, how the Twinings family introduced the nation to this beloved drink and the creation of our famous English Breakfast and Earl Grey.

The Twining Family

The Twining family are truly remarkable. They have shared their love and passion for fine quality teas for hundreds of years and passed on their incredible knowledge from one generation to the next. So far ten generations of the Twining family have been there to watch it all happen, from the creation of our famous English Breakfast blend to supplying tea to the Red Cross for food parcels during the war.

Stephen Twining is our Director Corporate Relations in the International Marketing Team and a Masterblender. Stephen represents Twinings at tea conventions around the world spreading the Twinings message across the globe and helping to make sure Thomas's promise is never broken.
 

Stephen Twining

Stephen Twining

Twinings Today

More than 300 years later, the passion for tea is still here - and so are we. We still sell tea from Thomas's shop, and we still work hard to bring the most exciting new blends to tea lovers around the world. Now, we have over 500 varieties and our teas are cherished all over the world. Our expert master blenders taste more than 3,000 cups of tea every week. So you can be sure the next cup you taste will be every bit as good as the one yesterday or the day before.

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