Friday, 4 January 2013

More Tea, Vicar?

The Tea & Coffee Walk - Cupfuls of History

A Coffee Shop on every street corner? Today Coffee Shops abound in London. Plus ça change. Because a merchant, resident or visitor to London some 300 years ago would have found a similar scene. They were the centre of city life, the place to be to gain information on ships arriving in the docks, to exchange stocks and shares or to debate matters of the day. Their legacy can be seen today in insurance, the Stock Exchange, auctioneers, newspapers and financial institutions. Then the good old cuppa tea began to take over, in the home, in the pleasure gardens and tea rooms. Arriving on the tea clippers to be sold at the Tea Auctions. This walk traces the history of the tea and coffee trade in London.

Coffee shops have regained a following they haven’t enjoyed since they first blossomed here in the C17th.

Coffee houses have become the social fulcrum of society, the so-called Third Place between home and office – very often because many people, in an age of portfolio careers and nomadic teleworking, no longer have offices to which they regularly go.

It is a fitting revival for a meeting place that has shaped history, commerce, literature and revolution. Lloyd’s began life as a coffee house in London offering insurance for the British empire’s merchant fleet. So did London’s Stock Exchange, and the Tatler and The Spectator. The auctioneers Sotheby’s and Christie’s grew from salerooms attached to coffee houses. They were havens where people of all classes met to discuss business and art, politics and philosophy: and to gossip. Johnson, Dryden and Swift were regulars.

Charles II was not a fan seeing London’s coffee houses as ‘places where the disaffected met, and spread scandalous reports concerning the conduct of His Majesty and his Minsiters’. Little has changed. Today that job is being done by the chap with the latte posting on his political blog.

Meet Kim at 2.30p.m at Liverpool Street Station (Bishopsgate exit), this Saturday 5th January 2013.

A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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