Something I’ve been keeping quite a keen eye on so far is the museum vs shop ratio.
Geffrye Museum? Middle sized museum, middle sized shop
Transport Museum? Big shop, but extremely big museum (housing buses, trains and traffic lights.)
Rose Theatre? Tiny one room exhibition, tiny desk of trinkets for sale.
The museum vs shop ratio for the Twinings museum has unfortunately upset the balance.
This is a tea shop, with two glass cabinets of fairly interesting stuff.
So whilst I’d love to have lots to share, I’ve got… well not much.
But here goes.
Thomas Twining was 31 when he started his business. (So there’s hope yet.)
The Twinings site was next door to Tom’s Coffee House, on the Strand. Twining became the proprietor of Tom’s in 1706, and opened Twinings (then called Golden Lion Tea) next door in 1710.
Perhaps someone standing outside on the Strand posed, for the first time ever, the question ‘Tea or Coffee?’
Tea was precious, and kept in caddies like these:
There’s an amazing document on show written about 70 years ago – with a delightful turn of phrase.
“If you have the courage of your palate, I invite you to find out for yourself what the great teas of the world are like. I would have you explore the smoky richness of a vintage Lapsang Souchong (beloved of J.P. Morgan); the crackle and bite of a lordly Darjeeling; the pure elysium of a properly cured Formosa Oolong. Truly these are exalted brews, and lest you approach them with soul unshriven let us dip for a moment into the basic lore of tea.”
Or how about:
“If you go adventuring among teas – and for the civilizing of your soul I urge you to do so – you want to be very sure of what you are doing before you tackle a Lapsang Souchong. This is the roaring China black tea that has almost literal hair on its chest.”
It goes a bit skew here:
“Be careful about trying it on women. As a rule, it is too strong for their lily insides.”
But returns to form again with:
“On only one point along would I be sternly dogmatic – be sure to make your tea strong enough; get some real flavor into it.”
It would be nice to have a quick peek in the Afternoon Tea Book. Alas, it was behind glass.
And if anyone would like to send me a box of this to taste, that would be nice.
#1. Twinings is believed to be the oldest company to have traded continuously on the same site with the same foundation since its foundation. (It also probably means they deserve the London Tenant of the last three centuries.)
#2. Samuel Pepys wrote on 28th September 1660 – “I did send for a cup of tea (a China drink) of which I had never drank before.” But seven years later however, he writes that he had come home to find his wife making tea, as if it had become a much more common thing.
So it took seven years for tea to grip the English. Seven years!
#3. But we were significantly late to the party. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tsze lived in the 6th century B.C and it is mentioned within his doctrines that he went into a gatekeeper’s house, and together they drank tea.
#4. Herbert Joseph Colclough (ex-Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent don’t-ya-know) was the first person to produce and sell ‘fine porcelain’ by single unit. Previous to this, these items would have to be bought as a whole set. By doing so – he opened up the market to the ordinary person on the street, allowing people to build a collection piece by piece.
#5. There was no knowledge of tea in Europe prior to 1517, when ‘intercourse’ began between Portugal and China. It was first transported to Europe in 1610 by Dutch merchants.
2. Churchill War Rooms
3. Cinema Museum
4. Dennis Sever’s House
5. Dr Johnson’s house
6. Design Museum
7. Down House
8. The Geffrye Museum
9. London Film Museum
10. London Transport Museum
11. Mansion House
12. Brunel Museum
13. Museum of the Order of St John
14. Musical Museum
15. Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
16. Pollock’s Toy Museum
17. Rose Theatre exhibition
18. Fashion and Textile Museum
19. Royal College of Music Archives and Museum of Instruments
20. Sherlock Holmes Museum
21. Twinings Museum
22. V&A Museum of Childhood
23. Bank of England museum
24. The Stephens Museum