Mason and fortnum tea

Fortnum & Mason was founded in Duke Street, London in 1707 by Hugh Mason and William Fortnum. And while the iconic brand is internationally renowned for its stunning selection of teas, food and china, we bet there are some secrets of the store that you don’t know about.

Here are 14 incredibly cool facts about Fortnum’s for you to reel off at your next dinner party.

1. Fortnum’s is best known for its wicker hampers filled with goodies. In fact, it dispatches close to 120,000 packages around the world each year.

2. Fortnum & Mason was originally a candle shop! They had the ingenious idea of selling Queen Anne’s half used candle wax, at a profit, which began to pave the way for a successful business.

Fortnum & Mason in 1957 (Getty)

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3. Fortnum’s first started creating hampers in the 1730s, after being asked by customers travelling from London to their country estates to prepare picnic baskets for the road. Many journeys to the countryside would begin at coaching inns placed along Piccadilly.

4. Fortnum’s sent food out to those at war. During the Crimean War, Queen Victoria sent Fortnum’s beef tea to Florence Nightingale to nourish her patients while the Red Cross sent out 500 Fortnum’s Christmas puddings to troops during WWI.

Fortnum & Mason in 1990 (Getty)

5. They invented the scotch egg! Yep, you can thank Fortnum’s for that delicious ball of goodness, after the team came up with the idea of wrapping a hard-boiled egg in sausage meat as the perfect snack for travellers.

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6. They were also the store that bought baked beans to the UK. When Mr Heinz lugged five cases of samples from the USA, Fortnum’s saw the potential of the product and took them all.

7. Their roof is buzzing with activity, literally. The Fortnum’s Piccadilly roof has been home to its famous bees since 2008. Each year, the bees produce delicious honey to sell in-store.

Fortnum & Mason have their own beehives on the roof (Getty)

8. There’s more up there, too… Aside from the bees, Fortnum’s also has it’s own salmon smokery on the roof, as well as an allotment where they grow herbs and vegetables to use in their resturants.

9. They have their own historian. Their in-house archivist knows everything that needs to be known about Fortnum’s.

10. They have an eye for fashion. Fortnum’s has always supported brands and artisans in their infancy; it was the first store in England to stock Yves Saint Laurent.

11. They LOVE tea. So much so, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon boasts 82 different types, and Fortnum & Mason has ‘tearistas’ on hand to expertly guide you through.

12. They have a famous chocolate recipe, which is still used today in the handmade English collection. Each chocolate in these special boxes has been made individually by hand.

13. They move with the times. Fortnum’s often turns its iconic food products into something else. For example, the Rose & Violet Creams, Florentines and Chocolossus Biscuits are now all flavours in the ice cream parlour, while the Blanc de Blanc Champagne and Kir Royal have been turned into ice popsicles.

14. Their carpet has a purpose. Fortnum’s believes it needs to make every visitor feel special, so the carpeted ground floor is a way of treating guests feets from the pavement outside. Plus, carpets make you walk slower, which means more time to shop, shop, shop.

MORE: 8 READY MADE PICNICS FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO MAKE THEIR OWN

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History of Fortnum & Mason Department Store in London

Fortnum’s & Mason’s department store in London, often called Fortnum’s, has been around since 1707. It has had a colourful continuous history and has often been centre stage at some of London and UK’s important historical moments. Today, it’s a department store that specializes in all sorts of goods. Everything from food, ordinary and essential goods, and even unique exotic products are offered at this historic store on Piccadilly. There are several other stores nowadays, but the main one has remained the most important one. With that in mind, below are 10 facts related to the history of Fortnum & Mason department store in London.

Fortnum & Mason department store in London. Photo Credit: © Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons.

1. It all started with candles
The history of Fortnum & Mason starts with Queen Anne’s obsession with candles. That’s when Fortnum realized that he could make a fortune by selling the queen bundles of wax candles because most of the time, she left plenty of candles half-burned. He convinced his landlord Mason to start the business venture together, and so they opened a grocery shop together. It was decades later when the shop became primarily interested in selling mostly food to travellers, so they packaged easily transportable meals and sold it to travellers visiting London.

2. The invention of the Scotch Egg
One of the most influential items sold in the history of Fortnum & Mason is their most famous invention – the Scotch Egg. When they focused on selling easily transportable food, they wanted to invent a new type of food that would be both delicious and easy to carry. After several attempts, they created the Scotch Egg. The boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and covered in breadcrumbs proved to be an instant success. Stories say it was most likely named after officers of the Scots Guard that lived in the vicinity of the shop, who had taken a liking to the egg.

3. They had their own mail service
The Post Office wasn’t a thing in the United Kingdom until 1839. Before it opened, sending and receiving mail was more or less unregulated, meaning everyone had to manage their mail entirely by themselves. Fortnum & Mason’s store always had a spirit of entrepreneurship, so they opened their own mailing service. They installed letterboxes that were emptied six times per day, and they offered discounts to both sailors and soldiers. This service proved to be a success until the Post Office was opened almost 50 years later.

4. Instrumental against Napoleon
The Napoleonic wars took a heavy toll on Europe, and Britain was no exception. However, it also proved to be one of the proudest moments in the history of Fortnum & Mason. They were one of the most important deliverers of food to the soldiers on the frontlines, and they brought them dried fruits, honey, and spices. They even supplied goods that were used to entertain the Czar of Russia when he had arrived in London to discuss the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.

5. A respectful clock
The most important people in the history of Fortnum & Mason are, naturally, William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. Without them, the enterprise wouldn’t have existed in the first place, so in 1964, the board chairman at the time, W. Garfield Weston, commissioned a unique clock made in their honour. On the hour, every hour, 18th-century music starts playing from this beautiful four-ton clock, and two figurines of Fortnum and Mason come out and bow to each other. This respectful clock was made to commemorate the importance of the two gentlemen.

Mechanical clock on the main facade of Fortnum & Mason in London. Photo Credit: © Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons.

6. No better place for Afternoon Tea
Since the history of Fortnum & Mason pretty much began with serving tea along with food, it’s only fitting that it’s also one of the most famous spots to have a cup of Afternoon Tea in London. Fortnum & Mason’s have always had excellent gourmet services, one of which was dedicated in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen herself held the opening ceremony for the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon where you can have a grand experience that ranges from merely a cup of tea in gorgeous porcelain to a royal experience with pastries, cakes, and meals.

7. Conquering Everest
Mount Everest has always represented a significant challenge that practically mocked anyone that ever dared scale it. There have been a large number of attempts to scale it in the past, and Fortnum & Mason were the chief supplier of food and drinks to the expedition in 1922. It was a massive endeavour that ultimately didn’t make it to the top, but the store had supplied them champagne in any case. The expedition still broke a mountaineering record, and they celebrated with the champagne provided by Fortnum & Mason, along with dozens of cans of exquisite and delicious food.

8. Entertaining Guests Worldwide
King George V was one of Britain’s most popular rulers, especially at the time. He was known for throwing lavish parties, and one of the largest ones was the Jubilee in 1935, which commemorated 25 years of his ascension to the throne. As it’s always been a tradition in the history of Fortnum & Mason, they were responsible for catering to guests from all corners of the Empire. They created a special department that accommodated to the different dietary needs of the subjects of the Empire coming from far away, such as specially prepared Hindu, Muslim, and Indian meals.

9. Selling a Christmas single for charity
One of the proudest moments in the history of Fortnum & Mason was in 1984 when they sold the single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote the hit. Its purpose was to raise money to help a struggling Ethiopia deal with famine. The idea was brought up by an employee, and the charitable event was a smashing success.

10. Colonies of Bees
The roof of the Piccadilly store is the home of four bee colonies. Although this is a new thing in the history of Fortnum & Mason, it’s considered an important deal. These beehives are twice the size of regular ones, and they have their own triumphal arch entrances with different designs.

Fruit and flowers section at Fortnum & Mason department store in London. Photo Credit: © Andrew Dunn via Wikimedia Commons.

Which such a rich history and tradition, the main Fortnum & Mason store located close to Piccadilly Square at 181 Piccadilly Street is visited by tourists from all corners of the globe. The store hours for Fortnum & Mason is Monday to Wednesday (10 am to 8 pm), Thursday to Saturday (10 am to 9 pm) and Sunday (11.30 am to 6 pm).

Fortnum & Mason: A British Tradition

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.

“Everything we do is informed by our passion and knowledge for the spectacular, the beautiful and the distinctive.” — Fortnum & Mason

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.

Fortnum & Mason’s legendary storefront

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.

“Look where I will…I see Fortnum & Mason. All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!” — Charles Dickens

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.

This is capitalism as its most gaudy: Fortnum & Mason reviewed

I admit I had a falling out with Fortnum & Mason a few years ago over its new brasserie on Jermyn Street. It replaced a restaurant that looked like a toilet-roll cover or wedding dress, and although I had never eaten there, I felt protective of it. Why was she blown away and on what wind? Why can’t London resemble, always, something unseen in a Graham Greene novel, because I want it to? It was replaced by a smooth and very expensive restaurant for rich people, which looked like every other brasserie that has opened in London since 2000. I remember it had orange banquettes. It was too Mayfair — that means too Zurich, today — and not enough St James’s. I took against it because I couldn’t imagine a Victorian child standing outside it holding a lantern on Christmas Eve, its breath warm in the air; and if I could it certainly couldn’t afford to eat there. It did an excellent seabass though.

Fortnum & Mason, you see, doesn’t really sell fashion or foodstuffs, even if they do the best scones and the best jam and the best lemon cake, and on and on. (Only its fudge, for me, has been bettered, by a man who had a stall on the South Bank long ago, and he was either a madman or a prophet.) It sells fantasy. It’s 21st-century London’s Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and the only shop I go to for pleasure. It’s a theatre where you can eat the scenery; and theatre should be for everyone. And that, I think, is why I objected to the brasserie. Fortnum & Mason isn’t, and shouldn’t be, for rich people — that is one of the reasons that UK Uncut, who ‘occupied’ it in 2012, looked less like daring revolutionaries than, as ever, middle-class idiots who don’t understand the country they think they want to save. It was for rich people once, and it sent its marvellous hampers to places they shouldn’t have gone, but no more. (You can have a bit of nostalgia. You don’t have to take it all. Liking Fortnum & Mason doesn’t mean I approve of the colonisation of India.) Fortnum & Mason sells a romanticised past; it’s an undangerous and potentially edible roller-coaster to Brexit. You won’t meet the Duke of Westminster in the food hall — he will probably be in Tesco, browsing special offers. You’ll meet Bill Nighy staring at cheese.

So I am ecstatic in the Christmas department, imagining myself a Christmas I have never had. Or that nobody has ever had. That I am Jewish is beside the point. Drugs are drugs, and I like this one very much. I go and sit on the red velvet thrones under an enormous wreath, on the first floor by the teapots, and ponder multiple dream Christmases and multiple overpriced baubles. I don’t care that the Fortnum & Mason Christmas is an invention of the Victorians. Nor do I care that this isn’t even England in the snow globes. It’s quite obviously Germany, which is very funny under the circumstances. But dreams are unreliable, and that is their right.

Then I go to the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor. The Queen opened it in 2012 — it was one of her presents — which of course proves my point, though I must also paraphrase Disraeli to prove it further: when I want to know what the middle classes think, I ask the Queen. And the Queen and I both love Fortnum & Mason. I assume Disraeli would have loved it too, but I could find nothing on the record. But since he ended up in Buckinghamshire with peacocks on the lawn, it is inevitable.

I don’t remember it being the whole of the fourth floor in 2012, but if it wasn’t then, it is now: a vast dining room to the back, and a smaller one to the front. It is softly carpeted and lit for dowagers still, and dotted with roses. There is a pianist on a Steinway Grand and a Christmas tree decorated in green and cream, the colours of the Fortnum & Mason teapot and teacup and Christmas decoration and carrier bag. You can decorate your tree like Fortnum & Mason itself. You can buy a tree decoration that is a miniaturised Fortnum & Mason tea set, and a miniaturised Fortnum & Mason hamper, but I wouldn’t. I would like to, but my sister would laugh at me.

We order Afternoon Tea. There is also High Tea, which includes a hot dish — Eggs Royale, Lobster Omelette Victoria, Glenarm Beef Wellington? — and Savoury Afternoon Tea, and Vegetarian Afternoon Tea, which I do not understand, although I wouldn’t ban it. (I am still that hateful thing, a liberal, but I pass for far-right these days on Twitter). It’s well-priced for central London, at £52.50 a head — I am aware this sounds insane — and it is almost a live-action demonstration of the Fortnum & Mason china department, for soon there are three tea towers on the table, and teacups and teapots and tea strainers and milk jugs and sugar pots.

How is the food, you ask? As I said, it is barely food, or rather so much more than food, and it is perfect: slender sandwiches filled with Coronation chicken, and ham and mustard, and egg and cress, and cucumber and cream cheese, and smoked salmon. There are thrilling pastries, which look like sugar sea creatures, and scones, which I eat in the Devonish way — the cream is the butter — and the legendary cake carriage, which today has lemon cake and chocolate cake and Battenberg, of course. We must remember where we really are, which is inside a false memory of Queen Victoria’s family Christmas, just a mile from her ugly palace. It is all refillable, as at Mr Wu’s.

So here is the magic: the tea, which is superb, and the belief that you are safe and loved in your stable or your central London department store, and all is well. Everyone is a child here, and everyone is happy, because this is capitalism at its most gaudy, skilled and bewitching. Perhaps UK Uncut did have a point when they ‘occupied’ it, rather than, say, Debenhams, which has an identity of course, but not one as seductive as this. Of course, it won’t end well, as I say every Christmas, but never mind that now. For a moment I feel it will be, at least until I step outside. Sugar kills more people than heroin, but of course you knew that. Merry Christmas.

Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & MasonPiccadilly, London, W1A 1ER

FORTNUM’S CLASSIC AFTERNOON TEA SAMPLE MENU

Finger sandwiches
Norfolk Cured Ham with English Mustard
Cucumber with Mint Cream Cheese
Rare Breed Hen’s Egg Mayonnaise with Cress
Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Tartare Sauce
Coronation Chicken

Fortnum’s scones
Plain & Fruit Scones
Presented with Clotted Cream,
Fortnum & Mason Strawberry Preserve & Lemon Curd

Afternoon Tea cakes
Selection of individual Patisserie

Served with a Pot of Fortnum’s Tea £60.00 per person

Add a Glass of Fortnum’s Blanc de Blancs, Hostomme N.V £70.00 per person

Children’s Afternoon Tea £30.00 per child

FORTNUM’S SAVOURY AFTERNOON TEA SAMPLE MENU

Finger sandwiches
Norfolk Cured Ham with English Mustard
Cucumber with Mint Cream Cheese
Rare Breed Hen’s Egg Mayonnaise with Cress
Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Tartare Sauce
Coronation Chicken

Fortnum’s savoury scones
Shropshire Blue Cheese Scone with Cranberry Jelly
Courgette & Thyme Scone with Red Onion Marmalade

Afternoon Tea savouries
Oeuf Drumkilbo
Cashel Blue Parfait with Port Jelly
Duck Mousse & Pistachio Paris-Brest
Smoked Trout on Crackerbread
Glenarm Beef Terrine with Horseradish

Afternoon Tea Cakes
Selection from the Cake Carriage

£60 per person Served with a Pot of Fortnum’s Tea

£70 per person with a glass of Fortnum’s Blanc de Blancs, Hostomme N.V

FORTNUM’S HIGH TEA SAMPLE MENU

A choice of:
Welsh Rarebit with Oven Dried Tomato & Caramelised Shallot
Lobster Omelette Victoria with Lobster Bisque & Truffle
Classic Scotch Egg with Piccalilli
Herb Crusted Glenarm Beef Fillet with Pommes Anna
Stilton & Butternut Squash Pithivier
Baked Brill & Lobster with Champagne Sauce
Eggs Royale or Benedict or Florentine

Fortnum’s scones
Plain & Fruit Scones
Presented with Clotted Cream, Fortnum & Mason
Strawberry Preserve and Lemon Curd

Afternoon Tea Cakes
Individual Patisserie
Selection from the Cake Carriage

£62 per person Served with a Pot of Fortnum’s Tea

£72 per person with a glass of Fortnum’s Blanc de Blancs, Hostomme N.V

FORTNUM’S VEGETARIAN AFTERNOON TEA

Finger sandwiches
Barber’s Cheddar with Fig and Fennel Chutney
Cucumber with Mint Cream Cheese
Pickled Celeriac, Kale Pesto
Root Vegetable Hummus
Red Pepper & Aubergine Tapenade

Fortnum’s scones
Plain & Fruit Scones
Presented with Clotted Cream, Fortnum & Mason Strawberry Preserve and Lemon Curd

Afternoon Tea Cakes
Individual Patisserie
Selection from the Cake Carriage

£60 per person Served with a Pot of Fortnum’s Tea

£70 per person with a glass of Fortnum’s Blanc de Blancs, Hostomme N.V

Vegan, dairy free, gluten free, dairy & gluten free & diabetic Afternoon Tea on request

SAMPLE CHILDREN’S AFTERNOON TEA

Finger sandwiches
Ham and cheese
Chicken and mayonnaise
Cream cheese with mint
Egg mayonnaise

Scones
Plain and fruit scone
Presented with clotted cream & Fortnum & Mason Strawberry Preser
Presented with Somerset clotted cream & strawberry preserve & lemon curd

Selection of Afternoon Tea Cakes
Chocolate and orange loaf
Marshmallows
Raspberry macaroon
Jammy dodger

Served with your choice of
Hot Chocolate, Classic Blend Tea, Fruit Juice or a glass of Milk

£30 per child

All food and beverage prices include V.A.T at the prevailing rate and are subject to a discretionary service charge of 12.5 %