If you’re after a truly English tea experience then a stroll down the Strand towards Fleet Street in WC2 is a must. For over 300 years a tiny corridor of a shop at number 216 has been supplying London’s tea connoisseurs with Twining’s tea. Drawn from plantations worldwide and stamped with the Twining’s label, this is a must for any tea snob.
Buying tea from Twining’s tea shop – opposite the Royal Courts of Justice – is a heady experience of smells. Fancy a green tea with mint? Then unscrew the top of the sample pot and breathe in the aroma. Now this is one of my favourite, but if you fancy any number of different flavours just take your pick and let your nose do the choosing.
If you want to try before you buy, then pop yourself down at the sampling counter at the end the shop and one of the Twining’s helpful assistants will talk you through your choices.
When Thomas Twining opened up his coffee house on London’s Strand in 1706 it was at the height of the coffee boom. Drinking coffee was a popular pastime and coffee houses were to become the haunt of people like Samuel Johnson whose house can be found in the passageways further down Fleet Street.
Roll forward to the 18th century and tea was now the fashionable trend. Jump further forward to today and tea has changed from its pure form to cater to our many varied and sophisticated tastes. White, black and green tea all beckon from the shelves along with any number of fruit and herbal blends.
I would go as far to say that even if you think you don’t like tea, this little tea shop – squeezed in what was a passageway – is a worth a visit as a truly London experience. And if for some reason you’re not a convert when you leave you can as least experience a little piece of London’s history and browse the small museum that features old teapots, caddies and original Twining family photographs.