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.