On Strand is one of London's very smallest museums - and its gift shop is larger than its exhibition! This is the Twining's shop, which has been here for three centuries, and celebrates its long history with a museum display at the back.
In 1706, Thomas Twining bought a coffee house on Devereux Court, on the corner with the Strand. Competition between these fashionable social establishments was fierce; as they tried to distinguish themselves, some did rather better than others. Famously, Hogarth's father opened a coffee house in St John's Gate whose gimmick was that only Latin could be spoken: it failed. Twining's approach was almost as risky, but worked - he took on Tom's Coffee House and made it famous for tea.
The drink had been introduced to Britain just 60 years before Twining set up in business on his own, and was still expensive and heavily taxed. Nonetheless, it was popular with aristocratic customers who could buy leaves to take away, as well as the beverage to drink on site, and soon the trade in dry tea made up most of his business. He expanded it, occupying three houses on the Strand by 1717, forming the shop that is still there today. Within a few decades, Twining's were selling tea to royalty and exporting it to America. By the end of the century, Thomas' son Richard had successfully lobbied the government to reduce tea taxes.
This history is captured in several display cases, which feature documents, pictures and packaging as well as tea paraphernalia. Entry is free, and you can also enjoy the building including the famous Coade-stone figures on its facade. And there's an impressive selection of tea on sale if you want a flavorsome souvenir.