The Tea Building
Originally built as a factory for Allied Foods' Lipton brand, the Tea Building has been a Shoreditch landmark since the early 1930s. The eight-storey building is the main feature of the junction of Shoreditch High Street and Bethnal Green Road, along with the neighbouring Biscuit Building. It was originally designed as a bacon curing factory and later served as a tea warehouse. Today, it is part of Shoreditch's rebirth as a service-sector hub.
Construction on the Tea Building, which is located at 56 Shoreditch High Street, began in 1931. The building was original designed by New Zealand-born architect Hal Williams. Completed in 1933, the building started its life as a bacon factory and was used by Lipton for bacon curing. By the late 1930s, the building was also used for processing and packing tea. Its use as a tea warehouse inspired the property's current name. The structure was connected internally to the older Biscuit Building, which was used primarily for tea packing.
Throughout its history, the Tea Building has evolved with the times. During the Second World War, an air raid shelter was added to the building. It largely escaped German bombings during the war with only minor damage. In 1947, a section of the sixth floor was converted into a self-service canteen for staff in the building. An elevator was added to the property in 1950. During the 1970s, Allied and Lipton vacated the property during an economic recession that hit Shoreditch's industrial businesses particularly hard. Securicor subsequently took possession of the building and used it as a warehouse and storage facility. The new owner also renamed the building to Centric House.
With the arrival of service industries in the 1980s, many old warehouses and factories in Shoreditch were repurposed as office space. The refurbishing and conversion of industrial landmarks helped redefine the area. By the 2000s, Shoreditch emerged as a hotbed for technology start-ups and firms. In 2001, Derwent London purchased the property and renamed it to the Tea Building. Led by the Allford Hall Monaghan Morriss architect firm, the building was transformed into flexible office and studio space. The building's overall industrial design and character was maintained. Original structural detail and features have been maintained, including exposed brick, concrete columns, metal-frame windows, cobbles, and timer lift doors. Nearly 50 workspaces of different sizes were added in the redesign, which was undertaken in phases and completed in 2010.
The Tea Building today is a hub for creative industries. The property boasts 157,150 square feet of reconfigurable and affordable studio office space across give floors, as well as galleries and communal area. The property's tenants include media firms, marketing agencies, fashion labels, retailers, artists, and designers. The building is also home to restaurants and Shoreditch House, a private members club. Tenants include Crowd DNA, Dirty Burger, Fetch, Lyle's, Mother London, Monkey Kingdom, StartJG, and Tray.io.
The Tea Building represents Shoreditch's past and present, as well as its future. The building itself harkens back to the architectural character of the nineteenth century when the area was dominated by industrial show rooms and warehouses. At the same time, the Tea Building represents Shoreditch's renaissance into an area that is now driven by the service sector. As the area continues to evolve, the property will no doubt continue to redefine itself and reflect Shoreditch's changing economy.