Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buying tea as the Royals do

The warm relationship between tea and the Royals first came to my attention years ago when I was in Atlanta covering an appearance by Sarah, Duchess of York for the newspaper. I was one in a sea of reporters that day, so there was no one-on-one with the Duchess, alas, but I did learn from her talk that she sipped Twinings Tea and was fond of their Earl Grey. When I sip my Twinings Tea today, I am well aware this tea is one long favored by the Royals and that it displays the Royal arms and the words "By Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

I knew that Royal Warrants are bestowed upon all manner of businesses who supply goods and services to the Royal family, and I learned much more about the process thanks to a delightful book I found in an antique store over the weekend, "The Royal Shopping Guide: How and Where to Shop Like the Royal Family" by Nina Grunfeld (Morrow, 1984). It's an interesting system. A company has to have supplied goods to the Royals for at least three years, and a Royal Warrant is first granted for 10 years. It can be cancelled at any time, and no reason has to be given. If it's renewed, it is usually granted for another 10 years. There are currently (in 1984, at least) about 800 Royal Warrant holders, with 20-30 new ones granted each year, and about the same number losing their Royal Warrant. (Can you imagine how heartbreaking it must be to LOSE your Royal Warrant?) At the time the book was written, the four Royals eligible to bestow a Royal Warrant were The Queen, The Queen Mother, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales.

You know the McVities "biscuits" many of us find at places that stock British groceries? They are the Royal Warrant holders who made this wedding cake for Princess Marina and the Duke of Kent in 1934.

And I've seen this artwork of the not-yet-queen-Elizabeth and family before, but I love that it was included in the chapter on Royal Warrant holders supplying tea and coffee.

Here's the opening to the listing for Tea and Coffee suppliers, and it cites H.R. Higgins (Coffee Man) Limited, Melroses Limited, Nairobie Coffee & Tea Company Limited, Ridgways, The Savoy Hotel Coffee Department and R. Twining & Company Limited. So if you're a tea lover, a shopper or just a Royal watcher, I think you would enjoy this book!


  1. What a fabulous find! You make me jealous of the treasures you locate. Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Yes, I'm sure that I would enjoy that book. How exciting to cover an appearance by the Duchess of York. I also enjoy Twinings Tea and sometimes buy their Lady Grey tea.

  3. OK, I admit I am an Anglophile. I would love to have one of these books.
    I have a print of the royal family having tea (as shown in your book). I got my print when I visited the National Portrait Gallery in London where the painting is on display.

  4. Thanks for your kind words about my book.

    I'm sure if anyone wants a copy that it is still available in second-hand shops, but otherwise I could supply copies if you want to get in touch with me

    I enjoyed your blog.


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