A tea importer founded in London in 1706 and still run by the same family and operating out of the same shop in the Strand (number 216): though to be honest they actually run from Andover in Hampshire now and the shop is a tourist attraction, very narrow, with its quaint carved figurines of two Chinese and a lion over the door. This doorway was created in 1787.

It is however one of the few places in Britain where you can still buy Twinings tea in its internationally-famous coloured packets. It is now sold in supermarkets in comparatively undistinguished packets, black with gold edging, and a little framed picture of some part of the tea process under the Raj, rather anachronistic I would have thought. For example, the Assam features coolies in nothing but a dhoti and turban lugging chests onto a steamer, under the watchful eye of well-fed overseers. The English Breakfast shows a master and mistress in elegant clothes of about 1900, sipping their tea in the breakfast room; there is no sound, but the plop of croquet mallets on the distant lawn would not be out of place.

No, real Twinings tea is colour-coded. From memory, they have:

Now there was one that had a gold stripe on it... drat, what was that? Yunnan?

The Twining family can be traced back to Sir Roger Twynnynge, born about 1260 in Gloucestershire. Thomas Twining, born 1675, came with his father, a weaver, to London in 1684 and was apprenticed in 1701, but soon began to work under an East India merchant who dealt in tea and coffee. He acquired his own coffee-house, already called Tom's, in 1706, and converted it to the present shop in 1717, under the sign of the Golden Lion.

The company has been run by Thomas Twining 1707-1741, his son Daniel 1741-1762, his wife Mary Little 1762-1782, her son Richard 1782-1818, his son Richard II 1818-1857, Richard III from then, and other members of the family, who even today are still associated with it. Twining's also ran a bank next door from 1825 to 1892, when it merged with Lloyd's.

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