The Bottom Line
- Very up-to-date information including current news
- Not from a script but from true knowledge
- Excellent folder of pictures to accompany the tour
- Many walks affiliated to museums such as the Museum of London
- Tours do not run every day so check website for listings
- Facts learned from the Tea and Coffee Walk:
- Tea arrived in London five years after coffee or we may well have had tea houses but instead we had coffee houses.
- The River Thames used to freeze each year and London enjoyed Frost Fairs with coffee houses on the river.
- Floating coffee houses were common on the River Thames.
- King Charles II's wife was from Portugal and her dowry included tea (and the city of Mumbai (Bombay)!)
- We looked across to Tate Modern and I was reminded that the Tate in Tate Modern comes from Tate and Lyle, the sugar company.
- We passed the original site of Shakespeare's Globe which is on Park Street near to Southwark Bridge and is now housing.
- The East India Company flag appears to have some strong connections to the US Stars and Stripes.
Guide Review - Tea and Coffee Walk Review
The tour started at The Royal Exchange which was a trading center for tea and coffee from the 17th century. The tour took us around the City of London, down back alleys with fascinating historical facts and amusing anecdotal tales. I learned that the East India Company had headquarters at Leadenhall Market and held tea auctions four times a year but as the captains of the ships importing tea were allowed an area of the ship for personal goods a burgeoning trade in tea smuggling arose until taxes were lowered from 200% to just 12%. The tax free smuggled tea did introduce the lower classes to tea drinking.
We found a tea merchant's residential house in an alley (Philpot Lane) that was so well hidden you would struggle to find it alone but the real find was a platform where you can look down the river and get amazing views of Tower Bridge and the South Bank. I had never found this route and would strongly recommend going up steps near The Monument which appear to lead to offices as the views are spectacular. (Full directions here.)
We saw Old Billingsgate Market and Customs House on the tour and it just so happened a retired Customs Officer was following the tour. He told us a bit more about the goings on at Customs House and horrified us all when he admitted he personally introduced VAT!
I strongly recommend City Highlights walking tours if you would like to discover the secrets of the City of London with friendly, knowledgeable guides.