The Twinings in Three Centuries

Our line-up of Twinings Teas (ETS image)
Our line-up of Twinings Teas (ETS image)

If you wanted to discourse on the various members of the Twinings tea dynasty, you certainly wouldn’t be at a loss for material. The company moved into their fourth century of operations a few years ago and the latest of the Twinings line – Stephen Twining – is in the tenth generation of tea people from this august family.

If you wanted to read more about the Twinings family, you could try The House of Twining, 1706-1956: Being a Short History of the Firm of R. Twining & Co. Ltd, Tea and Coffee Merchants, 216 Strand London W.C.2. It’s a 115-page volume that was written by one of the Twinings nearly six decades ago. Used copies of this volume are apparently still floating around out there for a rather reasonable price.

If you’re up for instant gratification, however, you could go to various points around the Internet where free public domain books are offered and take a look at The Twinings in Three Centuries: The Annals of Great London Tea House, 1710-1910. Which might seem like a confusing title at first, but it references the fact that, at that time, the family had operated in three different centuries.

It’s a relatively slim volume that’s published by “R. Twining & Co., Ltd.” to celebrate the bicentennial of their entry into the tea business in 1710. It’s at that time that what the book calls “Tom’s Coffee House” was transformed into “an emporium for the sale and consumption of what was still timidly spoken of as ‘the new China herb.'” Tom, of course, referring to Thomas Twining, who kicked the whole thing off.

The move to tea was an opportune one for the family, given that it would eventually overtake coffee and become not only a national drink, of sorts, but an icon of British culture. The first half of the book focuses on the early days of the business, during which time it prospered greatly and ends with the death of Thomas Twining in 1741, at which point the reins were handed over to his son, Daniel.

The second half of the book deals with the generations of Twinings who followed and like the first half touches on various key incidents that took place in tea history during this time. Also worth noting, the numerous interesting illustrations that provide an excellent enhancement to the text.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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