TRE Logo

Icons of the Exchange: Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason’s indulgent Afternoon Tea Hamper showcases why the luxury grocer has been renowned as the ‘Home of the Hamper’ since the 1700s

Fortnum & Mason wicker hamper

There is something inherently thoughtful about gifting a hamper, and heart-warming about receiving one. With a careful curation of delectable goodies, specially selected to surprise and delight, nothing beats the excitement of unpacking the contents of an iconic hamper from renowned luxury grocer Fortnum & Mason.

Fortnum’s ‘wicker wonders’ are crafted from the finest willow and sealed with the prestigious ‘F&M’ stamp of approval – a recognised symbol of extraordinary food and exceptional service since the 1700s.

Fortnum & Mason hampers have accompanied illustrious individuals all over the world, including scaling the heights of Mount Everest and supplying provisions at the excavation of Tutankhamun in Egypt.

They have also won the praise of many luminary figures throughout history, including the author Charles Dickens, who was an ardent admirer of Fortnum’s hampers. In his Household Wordsjournal, published on 7th June 1851, he described the Epsom Derby Day, with crowds standing atop their F&M hampers to get a good view of the races: ‘And now, Heavens! All the hampers fly wide open, and the green Downs burst into a blossom of lobster-salad!’

1866 illustration of a Victorian picnic with a Fortnum's hamper (left), archive image of a catalogue page about Fortnum's hampers from 1931 (right) An image produced by the London Stereoscopic Company in 1866 depicting a Victorian picnic with a Fortnum & Mason hamper (left); an illustration by Rex Whistler, commissioned by Fortnum’s for a catalogue in 1931 (right)

By the end of the 18thcentury, picnics in the English countryside had become popular and fashionable, and Fortnum’s became known for supplying delicacies for such occasions. However, the origins of the company’s coveted hampers began as a less-glamorous traveller’s basket. Around the late 1730s, many of Fortnum’s customers travelled on horse-drawn coaches to destinations such as Oxford and Bath, beginning their journeys at coaching inns along London’s Piccadilly (where the original Fortnum & Mason store has been located since it was founded in 1707).

The food at coaching inns on the routes was rarely appealing, so customers looked to Fortnum’s to prepare travellers’ baskets filled with fare to last for the length of their journey, which was often a day or so.

Fortnum’s most famous tradition, however, is undoubtably its Afternoon Tea. As an extra special treat, the extravagant Afternoon Tea Hamper pays homage to the company’s superiority in both the creation of luxury hampers and the art of Afternoon Tea. Crammed with three centuries’ worth of teatime wisdom, as well as a delightful selection of the brand’s famous teas, cakes, preserves, accessories and accoutrements, this is the ultimate gift for any lover of the mid-afternoon tradition.

Fortnum's Afternoon Tea Hamper, £500, Fortnum & Mason Fortnum's Afternoon Tea Hamper, £500, Fortnum & Mason

Today, Fortnum’s offers an impressive 181 different varieties of tea sourced from all corners of the globe, and only the most special and rare teas – housed inside beautiful keepsake wooden caddies – have been chosen for this unique hamper. Highlights include the long-anticipated Badamtam First Flush Darjeeling, Oriental Beauty Taiwan and Emrok Estate Kenya, along with two of the most classic brews, the Earl Grey Classic and Afternoon Blend.

Because such extraordinary teas deserve the finest china, the hamper also includes two Camellia Tea Cups and Saucers and a Camellia Teapot, as well as a Fortnum’s Tea Timer and Art Deco Tea Strainer, to enable recipients to make the most perfect cup of tea possible.

As no tea is complete without biscuits, the hamper contains a marvellous assortment of appetising treats, including Fortnum’s famous Explorer’s Biscuits – a selection that includes Earl Grey Tea Biscuits, Chocolate Orange Afternoon Tea Biscuits and the mighty moreish Chocolossus – contained within a beautifully illustrated reusable tin. There are also Apricot and Strawberry Preserves for scone-topping; Traditional Shortbread and a Fortnum’s Fruitcake. To finish, an assortment of GlacéFruits and Sea Salt Napolitains will complete the afternoon tea experience on a note of blissful sweetness.

As one Fortnum’s customer shared: ‘With the year the way it has been, something special was needed for a dear friend I’ve not seen since the first lockdown. A hamper will be the perfect gift to cheer them up.’

Truly, no edible indulgence could be more uplifting.

Explore Fortnum & Mason’s vast array of hampers designed to suit all tastes and budgets here

The Royal Exchange celebrates its 450th anniversary this year. Our Icons of the Exchange series pays homage to the exceptional array of retailers that call The Royal Exchange home, with a look at the heritage, design and craftsmanship of products that epitomise the essence and excellence of our celebrated brands.

We look forward to welcoming you to The Royal Exchange during 2021, for a considered shopping and dining experience in spectacular and historic surroundings. Please visit our boutiques page for regular updates on our retailers’ opening information and hours, virtual appointments and click and collect services; including the Fortnum & Mason City store. Menus, information and contact details for The Fortnum’s Bar and Restaurant at The Royal Exchange can be found here.

Visit our heritage page to learn more about the history of The Royal Exchange and keep an eye on our 450 Years site, journal and Instagram for more fascinating facts and insights about its past and present as we commemorate this special milestone throughout the year ahead.