QT Magazine - - FOOD -

WITH the name of Stephen Twin­ing, you’d think it was in­evitable that he would end up in the fam­ily busi­ness.

As the ‘Global Am­bas­sador’ for the Twin­ings tea empire, Stephen was re­cently in Aus­tralia to share his ex­per­tise on what makes a good cup of tea, a brand that has had the royal seal of ap­proval since 1837.

“It’s a var­ied job de­scrip­tion be­ing a ‘Global Am­bas­sador’ for Twin­ings,” Stephen said. “The very top of list of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is that as a com­pany we are honoured we sup­ply our prod­ucts to the royal house­hold. The way the rules work is that we ap­point one per­son in the com­pany to make sure the rules sur­round­ing its use is fully ad­hered to.

“I have that hon­our of be­ing the ‘war­rant holder’ as such, and hav­ing to look af­ter two of the most im­por­tant cus­tomers in the world. But, of course, the first rule is the rule of con­fi­den­tial­ity, so I can’t tell you what they drink

each morn­ing.

“Hav­ing that Royal con­nec­tion, that coat of arms on our prod­uct, gives Twin­ings a huge amount of cred­i­bil­ity. We were given it in 1837 from Queen Vic­to­ria. It’s nice to know they ap­pre­ci­ate the qual­ity of tea we make, and it fills ev­ery­one at the com­pany with a great sense of pride.”

Tea has changed in the last 20 or so years, with more va­ri­eties than ever, in­clud­ing huge growth in green and Chai teas across Europe and Aus­trala­sia.

“There are al­ways things in common around the world, for ex­am­ple down here in Aus­tralia you have a few blends that you won’t see any­where else. We con­trol all the qual­ity of our teas cen­trally, and for ex­am­ple ‘Lady Grey’ ac­tu­ally started in Scan­di­navia then spread around the world, but it’s the same blend ev­ery­where. What makes it taste dif­fer­ent in Aus­tralia to, say Nor­way, is the water.

“Aus­tralian Af­ter­noon tea is an­other ex­am­ple. It’s a fan­tas­tic blend and only avail­able down un­der.

“Our cus­tomers ex­pect us to make a range of great teas, and for ex­am­ple, green tea drinkers don’t just want one blend. Tea is like wine, in that a Chardon­nay from the Yarra Val­ley is dif­fer­ent to one from the Mar­garet River and it’s due to the growing lo­ca­tion,” Stephen said. “The tea bush is ex­actly the same.

“I cer­tainly agree that in what we would con­sider tra­di­tional tea mar­kets, we are see­ing huge growth in green teas. In the tra­di­tional green tea-drink­ing coun­tries such as China, they are get­ting more in­ter­ested now in black teas.

“Most of the tea still comes from China, and when Thomas Twin­ing started the com­pany 310 years ago tea only came out of China, so we’ve al­ways had very strong trad­ing links with the Chi­nese and used many of their teas in our blends. But what’s ex­cit­ing about the in­dus­try is that there are now a whole range of world teas so read­ily avail­able. I have a per­sonal the­ory that any­where you go where peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate good food they in­clude tea in that mix, be­cause they un­der­stand what qual­ity means in tea.”

So how do you have your cup of tea, Aus­tralia? Stephen was asked to nar­row it down to just three tips to make the per­fect cup of tea, and it all comes down to pa­tience, and water.

“Use fresh cold water in the ket­tle ev­ery time, as it has more dis­solved oxy­gen. That’s what gets the flavour from the tea. Never re­boil the water. Just as it comes to the boil, that’s the per­fect time, leav­ing it to boil means it’s not go­ing to get any hot­ter.

“Taste is down to you, but English Break­fast be­longs with break­fast. Try new teas and how much milk or su­gar is in there is up to the in­di­vid­ual.

“Be pa­tient. For 5000 years un­til the tea bag was in­vented peo­ple brewed us­ing loose tea. Now peo­ple think tea bags are ‘in­stant food’ and jig­gle the bag for a quick re­sult. It can’t be done. The colour of the tea doesn’t rep­re­sent the flavour. It takes a good 2-3 min­utes to get the full flavour, so let it brew.”

Stephen proudly claims to drink around nine cups of tea a day, but likes to mix it up.

“My per­sonal favourite right now is Cey­lon Or­ange Pekoe. In the morn­ing I al­ways start with English break­fast, I’ll have Dar­jeel­ing for morn­ing tea, then my mind will turn to Earl Grey or Lady Grey for lunchtime.

“It all de­pends how I’m feel­ing, or if I’m eat­ing, or what the weather’s do­ing. There is such a huge range, I pick my tea for each mag­i­cal mo­ment. That’s the joy of tea!”

“It all de­pends how I’m feel­ing, or if I’m eat­ing, or what the weather’s do­ing. There is such a huge range, I pick my tea for each mag­i­cal mo­ment. That’s the joy of tea!”

The ex­pert in tea, Stephen Twin­ing.

Stephen Twin­ing

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