Twinings Lady Grey

Twinings Lady Grey

Starting a business can be a tough row to hoe. Nowadays, according to the United States Small Business Adminstration about half of all small businesses here are likely to fail within the first five years. So if you managed to somehow come up with a business that were to survive for the next 300 years that would be quite an admirable feat.

Enter Thomas Twining, a man who accomplished such a feat, by creating a company that we know today as Twinings of London, a company whose 200 varieties of tea are sold in more than a hundred countries around the world. According to the company, the Twinings story officially began in 1706, when the 31-year-old Twining began offering tea for sale in the coffeehouse he opened on London’s Strand. Prior to that Twining had been an apprentice weaver but later moved into importing, where he became more familiar with a relatively new commodity known as tea.

Coffee was a well-established drink in England by this time and by some estimates there were more than two thousand coffeehouses just in London at the beginning of the eighteenth century. As for tea, it was hardly a sure bet when Twining began selling it. The beverage had only been introduced into England a few decades earlier and was far from being the iconic beverage that later came to be associated with the British.

In the early days tea was a drink preferred by English upper classes, due in large part to the fact that it didn’t come cheap. But as tea gradually began to be imported in greater quantities prices started to fall and it became more established. As for the coffee craze, according to some sources it was on the way out by 1730 and tea was doing quite nicely, thank you for asking.

By this time Twining’s business, The Golden Lyon, was thriving, largely due to the changing attitudes toward tea. Sometime around 1734 he gave up on coffee selling, for the most part. One innovation that Twining is credited with is the practice of blending teas, a notion that’s quite common nowadays but was relatively unknown in his time.

After his death in 1741, Twining’s son Daniel took over the business and began exporting tea to those same American colonies who would soon hold a tea party in honor of the British. While there was another Thomas Twining slated to take over upon his father Daniel’s death in 1762, he decided to take a more scholarly and his mother Mary took over the post.

For more on the Twining story, check out The House of Twining, 1706-1956 and The Twinings in Three Centuries.

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