great places to visit off the beaten path.
Created in 1600 by a Royal Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I, the East India Company arguably shaped and influenced much of the world over its 250 years of global power. At its peak it controlled 50% of world trade. Americans know of the East India Company because of its connection with their independence and the Boston Tea Party, India was heavily influenced by its colonialism and operations, Singapore and Hong Kong were effectively founded by it, and modern day film-goers saw it portrayed in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films. Parts of London’s East End still contain the East India Company’s warehouses – now restored as Devonshire Square. But the company was disbanded in 1857 after its army rose in revolt against the British. After its disbandment, all that continued was its trading name and a small tea and coffee business that essentially faded into nothing.
New beginnings: In 2005, Indian businessman Sanjiv Mehta purchased the remnants of the East India Company with the goal of revitalizing the brand and company as a luxury food goods company, while celebrating the positives of its legacy and keeping its history alive. While some may view this as a bit of a branding stunt, the reality is that the East India Company is a significant part of London’s history and this goal to rebuild the firm is a great way to preserve its history. Launched in 2010, the company’s flagship store on Conduit Street provides the visitor with some historical photos, displays and artifacts in addition to goods for sale. The company does a good job in honouring its past and thus a visit here is thus well worth it.
Products: Most of the East India Company’s products focus on their legacy in the tea, spice and coffee markets. Products are sourced from a broad geographical range and small informational descriptions of each item are provided. You will also find other food items, including jams, chocolates, and gift hampers. All are positioned as luxury goods and are thus well suited for gifts or personal enjoyment. Tea tastings are also offered and tasting parties can be arranged for groups. Now 400 years old, this company is a sliver of its once global self, but is worthy of support for keeping an historical entity alive.
The “chop” (logo): On a side note, the company’s “merchant mark”, or logo, was the first registered trade mark in the world and the first recorded company logo. Known as a ‘chop’ due to the Hindi word for a stamp (chap), the logo is generally regarded as representing a boat coming towards you, with a sail atop it.
Visiting: Open daily 10am – 7pm (Sunday 12pm – 6pm)
Located: 7-8 Conduit Street, London W1X 2SF
Closest Tube: Oxford Circus