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The Strand - Britains Original Tea Room

In our “Classically British” series, we look at the history of the tea room and the place of The Strand, Twinings Westminster based museum.


In our “Classically British” series, we look at the history of the tea room and the place of The Strand, Twinings’ Westminster based museum.

In our latest series of features entitled ‘Classically British’, we have been exploring various aspects of quintessential British tea culture that really speak to our love of all things “Blighty”. From the history behind St George’s Day to the quirks of a traditional afternoon tea, we’re donning our bowler hats and taking the Mini Cooper for a spin as we celebrate all things Classically British. The next stop on our whirlwind tour of our favourite things about Great Britain is the story behind tea rooms. The British tea room is synonymous with British culture as a whole, as well as an iconic aspect of the rich culture surrounding tea.

The History of Tea Rooms

Tea Rooms and the Upper Classes

Traditionally the tea room was a place where only the upper class men of British high society would meet for a drink and to discuss business. From 1660 to 1689 there was a liquid tax placed upon all tea sold in coffee houses. This meant that all tea would be brewed first thing in the morning ready for taxation and then reheated throughout the day as the shop gained customers. Whilst this made for some pretty poor tasting tea, it was considered extremely expensive due to the taxation and hence this tea-drinking ritual was one only enjoyed by the elite.

Tea Rooms and Temperance

It was during the temperance movement in 1830 that the popularity of tea rooms began to take off. Whilst pubs and inns had been the drinking establishments of choice for many years, people began to look for an alternative to alcoholic beverages and so, Britain saw a rise in the demand for tea. Tea seemed like the perfect alternative to the alcohol that had once been a central part of the British diet.

Safe from disease due to the boiling water used to make it, and thirst-quenching for workers completing tough manual labour, it soon became a favourite for the British people. Whilst the tea room had previously been popular only for the upper classes, in particular only the wealthy men of society, this led them to open their doors to people from the middle classes too.

Tea Rooms and the Suffragettes

The rise of the British tea room has not been solely based around a love of a good cup of tea (although this does help!).

Tea rooms were one of the first places in Britain where it was acceptable for women to visit unescorted by a male, be this alone or in a group with their friends. In the late 1880’s there were limited places where women were able to meet, but soon tea rooms became the location of choice thereby enabling the suffragette movement to gain momentum.

In the early 1900s many women campaigning would run fund-raising events at tea rooms, with the WSPU even producing their own tea and china for such events.

The Original Tea Room

When looking at the history and evolution of the British tea room, you have to mention the Twinings flagship store at 216 Strand in London.

Around the time that taxation changed, our very own Thomas Twining purchased Tom’s Coffee House at 216, The Strand in London in 1706. This iconic London establishment began serving tea as an alternative to coffee in order to compete with all the surrounding coffee houses. As far as we know; The Strand was the first dry tea and coffee shop of its kind, and became a trend-setter for the tea shops to follow, aiding the increase in tea room popularity. It is the oldest shop in the City of Westminster which trades with the same name, at the same site, with the same family, since its inception.


As it stands today, The Strand is a one of a kind tea shop and museum and is a very popular tourist attraction right in the heart of London.

Whilst much of the traditional elements of The Strand remain the same, it is the perfect blend of classic and contemporary with recent renovations making it as a must-visit on any trip to London:

Pick ’n’ Mix area

A tradition most of us would associate with the sweet counter, The Strand has its very own Pick ’n’ Mix area which is perfect for those who want to try it all. Exploring The Strand and hearing about how Twinings’ master blenders create their fantastic flavours is bound to get you in the mood for trying some of the teas out. If you can’t pick just the one, then you can build your very own box of tea flavours for yourself, or as a gift, here. Each tea bag is individually wrapped in our distinctive Twinings’ envelopes and sealed to keep in the delicious flavours, so you can have a different cuppa every hour!  

Loose Tea Bar

Can’t wait to get home to try some of our delightful tea? The recent renovation of The Strand has provided us a modern loose tea bar. Here you can sit back and sample all of our different loose tea blends with our tea experts to help you find the perfect cup for you.

The Museum

And finally, The Strand boasts our totally unique tea museum where you can discover lots of fascinating items that tell the story of the history of tea. If you have a passion for tea, or an interest in British history then you can find out so much more with a visit to this informative tea museum. The Twinings family’s involvement in making tea available to everyone in Britain is a fascinating story as we travel through generations to create The Strand we all know today. 

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