1706. Tom’s Coffee House
Coffee houses were incredibly popular meeting places for men in London, providing them with places to do business, socialise and drink. Thomas Twining saw this as a great business opportunity and purchased ‘Tom’s Coffee House’. The coffee house straddled the border between Westminster and the City of London, on the Strand, which was an area newly populated with the wealthy after the Great Fire of London in 1666.
With approximately 2,000 coffeehouses in London offering an assortment of beverages including coffee, hot chocolate, rum, brandy and arrack, Thomas was keen to stand out from the competition, so introduced fine quality tea as a new offering. Tea was increasingly fashionable to drink and before long Thomas was selling more dry tea than wet. He sold dry tea to competitive coffee houses as well as wealthy households. Social norms of the time meant it was socially taboo for ladies to enter coffee houses, but they were keen to serve this new beverage in their drawing rooms, so they would wait outside Tom’s Coffee House in their carriages while their footman went in to buy the tea.
1717. The Golden Lyon
Selling tea had become so popular, that by 1717 Thomas Twining had acquired two adjacent houses enabling him to convert one into a shop specifically for handcrafted and blended teas alongside the Coffee House. Convention meant it was still not acceptable for ladies to enter coffeehouses, but it was acceptable to shop. In opening up this shop, Thomas was now able to sell his high-quality tea directly to his wealthy female customers, for whom drinking tea at home had become very fashionable.
Thomas adorned the shop entrance with a gold painted lion, regal in nature and radiating class. The Golden Lyon Tea and Coffee House was born.
This was probably the world's first dry tea and coffee shop. The same building is now number 216 Strand, the famous Twinings shop that still exists today.