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The tea quaffer
Stephen Twining, 10th generation ambassador for his family's tea house, on why he is passionate about taking forward a 300-year-old tradition.
The way Stephen H B Twining speaks about his tea - quickly and passionately - makes you sit down and listen, intently, to the stories he has to tell. And his favourite one begins with how, at the age of eight, Stephen decided to take the family tradition forward. "I managed to organise a tea-tasting session for my class on being asked by my geography teacher. And I was surprised to see the way all my friends and classmates were completely in awe of how different each blend of tea tasted. Since then, it's what gets me out of bed every day, " he says. And that set the ball rolling, or in his case, the kettle whistling.
The tea guru, who is brand ambassador for the company set up by Thomas Twining in 1706, recently paid a brief visit to India to launch the Rituals range that will be served at swanky five-star restaurants and fine dining outlets. "The range comprises a wonderful selection of 21 teas and tisane (infusions) from around the world. From a fantastic White Tea from southern India, through High Mountain Oolong, to an Earl grey with a twist, " Twining elaborates. Highbrow? But why not, if you supply tea to the queen of Britain?
The success of his first tea-tasting session nudged Stephen towards this profession but it was the pull of those tea leaves that kept him hooked. "I love the extraordinarily wide variety of taste that the world of tea encompasses. There is a perfect tea for any time of day. This I know is different from person to person, but the beauty of tea is that you choose the type of tea that suits you. The most important thing is to enjoy it, " he says.
And which tea works the best for the tea connoisseur? It changes through the day, he says, to suit his moods. "I usually start my day with a cup of invigorating English Breakfast followed by a mid-morning cup or two of Darjeeling. Around lunch time my thoughts turn to Earl Grey or Black tea with lemon. While in Mumbai, because the weather here is so much better than the English climate, I needed a lighter more refreshing tea in the afternoon, so was drinking from the green tea range, such as Jasmine Green - a little floral tea. During the evening, especially after dinner a cup of calming Chamomile or Peppermint is always a nice way to round off a good tea drinking day. " That makes a sum total of nine cups a day.
But what else does this "good tea drinking day" consist of? "The only constant factor is that it will be filled with the pleasure of drinking great teas. One day I am talking tea in India, and a few days later in the snowy landscape of Norway, " Twining answers, diplomatically denying a peek into his personal life.
But we know for a fact that Stephen H B Twining was inspired as a child by seeing his parents sip an invigorating English Breakfast every morning. And perhaps, so are his children - the 11th generation of Twining's - who, presumably, will take the tradition forward. "They still have the luxury of time, before they embark on their careers, but they are certainly proud of their heritage, and enjoy drinking tea, especially iced tea, which is so easy to prepare. " (See box. )
It may taste nothing like the teas his company takes pride in but Twining loves the spicy Indian chai. "Indian chai is a fantastic tradition, and at Twinings we always celebrate great local traditions. In fact, it has inspired us to make chai-type teas, which are very successful in many of our other markets. You should be very proud of the great, world class, teas that you grow - we certainly praise them highly - but there is also a world of teas out there waiting to be explored. "
FOOL-PROOF FORMULA FOR MAKING ICED TEA
Courtesy: Stephen Twining Make your pot of tea the usual way, but with twice as much tea. When brewed pour this over ice to dilute and cool it. Serve over more ice and garnish to taste.
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