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Tea-totaller

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
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CHAT Stephen Twining of the legendary Twinings tea family talks about what keeps the business brewing

The past sits comfortably on Stephen Twining's lanky shoulders. He is the 10th generation of the world-famous tea family, Twining, and carrying forward such a legacy isn't easy.

But Stephen doesn't let himself be burdened by it. He is the only member of his family to have joined the tea business and he did it not for any other reason but out of his sheer love for the beverage.

He travels the world sharing his passion and respect for his favourite drink and along the way he also dispels some myths.

“Like the tea bags, which have a poor reputation. It's unfair, especially for the Twinings tea bags. The quality of the cup of tea you get from a bag depends on the tea in the bag, and at Twinings, we never compromise on quality. A lot of the problem is how the bag is used. You still need to treat the bag as if it were loose tea; although it will make you a great cup of tea in a reduced time, but certainly not in an instant.”

The best brew

He continues, “When you use a bag in a cup or mug, as you add the water, the colour gets washed off. At brewing time, you also get the right level of antioxidants off the leaf too, which is one of the major health benefits of drinking tea.”

India is the latest addition to the list of the countries Stephen has travelled to, to promoteTwinings tea.

“Twinings has been sourcing teas from India for as long as India has been producing them. When I am asked which is the best tea in the world, I never give a precise answer, as it is dependent on the preference of the drinker, but my answer always includes both Darjeeling and Assam amongst others,” says Stephen, who remembers first coming to India in 1997 to learn to grow tea.

Twining's affair with tea began in 1706 when Thomas Twining opened a dry leaf and coffee shop in London. Since then, the family's engagement with tea has only grown stronger. Twinings sell more than 200 teas in more than 100 countries today.

“Tea as the world's second most popular drink after water is certainly seen as a wonderful healthy drink and in India and in the U.K. it is part of life. Tea is often drunk in different ways, according to local traditions, which is something that I always celebrate,” says Stephen.

The Indian flavour

Travelling in India, he took note of a few peculiar habits with regard to drinking tea.

“People will have really nice lunches and dinners at plush restaurants after which they will simply ask for a cup of tea. For me tea is never just tea. The perfect cup of tea to me is one that suits the moment. So first thing in the morning I need is a big bold revitalising cup of English Breakfast. Later in the day, a more mellow and flavoursome Darjeeling suits my mood. On hot sunny afternoons you can't beat a really refreshing Green Tea or Green Tea with Lemon.”

Though Twinings have their bestsellers in blends such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast, the company continues to experiment with newer blends and flavours. They have introduced a blend of Nilgiri and Munnar tea in the West and had launched Chinese teas as well. Twinings India will very soon launch some of their best loose tea brands in India.

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

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