To experience the museum as designed, visitors start at the top and work down through each floor. The museum highlights life around the Thames, particularly during past times when trade was done via long-distance, slow ocean shipping. This building was a warehouse for the West India Quay. Perhaps that name should have given me a clue...
It wasn't until I stumbled upon this exhibit that the light bulb went off in my head - TEA! In fact, in this very warehouse, tea that had arrived on a clipper ship was weighed, sorted, sampled and laid out in lots prior to auction.
According to the museum materials, prior to 1834, nearly all tea arrived in the East India Quay and was part of the monolithic East India Company. In 1834, the Company lost its monopoly. The importation of tea continued to increase, and some of that tea made its way to this very building in the West India Quay. In 1869, when the Suez Canal opened, steamships began to deliver tea further down river.
Also at the Museum is the Sainsbury Study Center, an archival and research institution with an interesting display of retail and grocery. The photo below greeted me at the door.
Image from grocer.co.uk
If you find yourself on the East side of London, do make time for this museum, and tea next door!