Say what you want about a company that’s been around longer than the United States, but you’ve gotta assume that they’re doing something right. There may be other tea companies that have been doing business as long as Twinings of London but I’m not aware of any. The firm got underway 307 years again, in 1706, when Thomas Twining started to offer tea in the coffeehouse he operated on London’s Strand. Ten generations on, Twining family members still have a hand in things, as you can see from this summary of Stephen Twining’s 300th anniversary tour.
For more on the founder of Twinings, take a look at my article on the topic. Upon Thomas Twining’s death in 1741, his son Daniel stepped in to take over the family business. Born eight years later and one of three brothers, Richard Twining got into the tea business at the age of 16 and moved into management six years later, in 1771. His brother John also entered into the business about a decade later.
It was an interesting time for the tea industry in England, due in large part to a move by the English government, in 1784, to reduce the immense tax on tea, a tax that had resulted in a rather bustling black market trade in tea. As the chairman of a group of London Tea Dealers Twining played an important role in initiating this act, which reduced the tea tax by more than one hundred percent, put a serious crimp in the smuggling trade and helped to make tea more affordable to the average citizen.
Twining wrote about these events in 1785, in a short volume titled Observations on the Tea and Window Act: And on the Tea Trade. A few years later, in 1793, he went on to become a director of the East India Company, a powerful interest that was instrumental in the rise of the tea trade and which had also played a role, a few decades earlier, in a certain little dust-up known as the Boston Tea Party.
Richard Twining went on to live to the relatively ripe old age – for the time – of 75. Continuing in the Twining tradition, his eldest son, also named Richard, stepped in to take over and spent an impressive six-plus decades in the family business.
See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.
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