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Modern-day tea drinking (part four)

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Tea in enghteenth centry (part three)
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As tea consumption rose, so did the number of places where one could enjoy it. From the very beginning of the century, coffee houses and tea merchants proliferated. The most famous of these was without doubt the Twinings Golden Lyon shop on the Strand. Opened in 1717 by Thomas Twining, it was London’s first tea shop. Three hundred years on and it is still selling tea, making it the oldest London shop still trading from the same site. Thomas Twining became famous for his tea blending, paving the way for the creation of such well-known blends as Earl Grey (invented by Jacksons of Piccadilly in the 1830s and named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister between 1830 and 1834) and English Breakfast (which, perhaps surprisingly, was created in only 1933 by Twinings).


Tea in enghteenth centry (part three)

An early twentieth-century painting showing the Twinings shop in the Strand, which one can still visit today.



In A Social History of Tea, tea expert Jane Pettigrew explains how, much like today, London’s eighteenth-century office workers were able to buy tea from special ‘breakfasting huts’ on their way to work. An advertisement from a contemporary London newspaper reads: ‘This is to give notice, to all Ladies and Gentlemen, at Spencer’s Original Breakfasting Hut… may be had every morning, except Sundays, fine tea, sugar, bread, butter and milk’. Tea, also served with milk, bread and butter, could be enjoyed in the popular pleasure gardens, such as those at Vauxhall, Ranelagh and Marylebone. These early ‘theme parks’, of which there were over sixty in London, featured verdant walks, concerts and other performances, outdoor games, boat rides, as well as masquerades and firework displays in the evenings. Not confined to London, pleasure gardens also appeared in towns throughout the country, including Bath, Norwich, Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham.


Tea in enghteenth centry (part three)

Eighteenth-century families spent many a leisurely hour drinking tea and enjoying the verdant surrounds in Britain’s newly fashionable tea gardens.



The first and best-known of London’s pleasure gardens was Vauxhall, but Ranelagh Gardens in Chelsea was without doubt the most spectacular. For half a crown, visitors could enjoy tea, coffee, bread and butter, explore the elegant gardens, perambulate the gravel walks lined with yews and elms, and experience the spectacular Rotunda. At over 150 feet in diameter, this was a sight to behold. Resembling somewhat the interior of the Pantheon in Rome, it featured a huge domed ceiling hung with crystal and gilt chandeliers lit by thousands of candles. Much like a theatre, its circular wall was lined with boxes (from where visitors could enjoy concerts) with refreshment tables (featuring the ubiquitous tea) placed at intervals. In the centre of the Rotunda, an elaborate colonnade housed a huge fireplace for use on cold evenings and during the winter. The fashion-conscious would gather here to show off their finest outfits and engage in polite conversation or a spot of gossip.


Tea in enghteenth centry (part three)

At Marylebone Gardens, visitors could enjoy the sights and sounds of firework displays and concerts (from the bow-fronted orchestra, shown on the right), promenade along tree-shaded walks or drink cups of tea in one of the latticed alcoves (shown at the back of this print).


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