Christina Smith OBE, founder of The Tea House, entrepreneur, property developer and philanthropist known as ‘the queen of Covent Garden’, sadly passed away on March 11, 2022, aged 87.
Her obituary features in The Times and gives an insight into her life, alongside this article, which was written for International Women’s Day, in honour of her achievements.
A True Inspiration
Our founder, Christina Smith, OBE, is an inspiring woman to many individuals, businesses and causes dear to her heart. And she did it her way.
Having lived in the area since the 1960s, she had a major part in saving the old market Piazza from destruction and continued to play a significant role in preserving much of the local architecture and reinstating the Seven Dials monument. She has also always been interested in the fostering and supporting of the community of residents as well.
Conducting business her way with natural flair and much astuteness, she achieved great financial success which, for a woman starting business when she did, was a major achievement. The Tea House was one of many of her ventures and we are proud to be the one to continue to carry her retail torch.
One of the most inspiring things about Christina is that from a young age and with no particular experience, she just acted upon her instinct and her intelligence. She has always worked hard, rolling her sleeves up where necessary, paid attention to detail and is a great questioner. She is a natural asker about the ‘elephant in the room’ and of the encouraging and thought provoking questions – why / why not?
As she has said:
“I always thought that by the age of 30, I’d be married with two children, so I never sat down and mapped out a career plan. I had a variety of early jobs ranging from a switchboard operator in the City to a cook on a Mediterranean yacht. I ended up as Terence Conran’s personal assistant, a role that taught me a lot about running a small business. I have since then been called “a semi-professional, a maverick and a hot potato”. There’s truth in all of those …!”
She is a natural entrepreneur and has had her failures. All the while, Christina has also been hugely generous and supportive of others and institutions personally and financially. Seeing her own success as a woman as one of her major achievements she has supported and encouraged woman in business, theatre, artists, architecture, design, producers, filmmakers, The Women’s Playhouse Trust and London International Festival of Theatre, both founded by women.
As for The Tea House, she is an inveterate tea drinker and traveller and realised that we were missing a great deal in this country by drinking only English Breakfast and Earl Grey in tea bags. She also saw a gap in a wall at 15 Neal Street and persuaded the owner of the rest of the building that she could and should put The Tea House there. And so she did.
Find out more about International Women’s Day: celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.