As suppliers of tea to England’s royal houses for more than 300 years, Fortnum & Mason has played an instrumental role in making tea the storied British drink it is today.
The story of its legacy began in 1705, when Hugh Mason, a livery stables keeper, rented a spare room to William Fortnum, a footman in Queen Anne’s household. The Royal Family called for having new candles every night, so every evening, when royal courtiers were retiring, Fortnum emptied the candlesticks of the half-used candles and took them home to his lodgings, where he melted them down, replaced the wicks and created new candles.
So successful was his enterprise that he convinced his landlord, Mason, to set up shop with him in St. James’s Market, and two years later, in 1707, the two opened their doors on Duke Street.
The Piccadilly shop became one of the first major importers of exotic teas, a fact that helped foster the strong British tea tradition that still exists. In 1761, William Fortnum’s grandson Charles went into the service of Queen Charlotte, creating an affiliation to the Royal Court that led to a surge in business. Eventually, Fortnum & Mason became the exclusive supplier of tea to the royal family. Today, Fortnum & Mason—or Fortnum’s, as it is often called for short—is a food destination famous for not only its exquisite custom-blended teas, but also its delicious accompaniments, like marmalades and biscuits, and its gift sets, presented in the original Fortnum’s hamper.
The brand is known for its Fortnum & Mason Famous Teas, which have been renowned over generations, as many have been created to mark a special occasion, a royal event, or even a monarch. For example, the Royal Blend, first blended for King Edward VII in the summer of 1902, has remained popular for its smooth, almost honey-like flavor, enjoyable at any time of day. The Breakfast Blend, a robust leaf tea from pure Assam leaves grown in the prized Brahmaputra Valley in Northeast India, has been a part of the lineup since 1840. And the Wedding Breakfast Tea, which commemorates the 2011 marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is one of the most beloved blends, made of assam lifted by the addition of a little Kenyan tea (the location of Prince William’s marriage proposal).
We’re proud to be the exclusive U.S. retailer for a selection of Fortnum & Mason’s finest; see more of our favorite Fortnum & Mason teas, preserves and biscuits.