专题 FEA­TURE

Tak­ing A Shine To Tea 精品茶时光

ZbBZ (Singapore) - - 期精华 IN THIS ISSUE - TEXT Den­nis Ng / 黄少伟

Tea with milk and sugar? Sac­ri­lege, de­clares gold-min­ing mag­nate and Newby Teas owner Nir­mal Sethia, be­cause a truly fine tea should be so good, it is drunk on its own 英国New­by茶庄经营高级精品茶,讲究 天然原味无添加,教育公众分辨劣等 茶和精品茶,振兴逐渐衰亡的 茶文化。

He owns gold mines in Rus­sia and has multi-mil­lion­dol­lar in­ter­ests in busi­nesses world­wide. Two years ago, he threw a wed­ding for his son, where ty­coons such as Lak­shmi Mit­tal were on the guest list; Amer­i­can rap­per Akon and Cana­dian troupe Cirque du Soleil were among the many artistes flown to Udaipur to per­form at the four-day af­fair.

Chair­man­ships and di­rec­tor­ships on sev­eral boards keep this man busy, but en­gage the Bri­tain-based busi­ness mag­nate Nir­mal Sethia in a chat and talk will lead in­evitably to the hum­ble pot of tea.

Cor­rec­tion: What Sethia wants you to know is that tea is not so hum­ble a pro­duce. At 73, his am­bi­tion is to res­tore glory and her­itage back to the tea in­dus­try which he feels has been eroded in the last cen­tury.

Tea Mantra

“Fine tea is never judged by its ap­pear­ance but by its char­ac­ter of the brew.” This is one of Sethia’s tea mantras, which have been brew­ing since he ap­pren­ticed at a tea com­pany in Lon­don af­ter leav­ing home and school at 14 to seek his in­de­pen­dence.

The An­glo-In­dian had stunned his fam­ily with his teenage de­ci­sion and ap­plauds his late fa­ther for in­dulging the rebel in him. “To sur­vive, progress and learn, I was to­tally in­volved, dis­ci­plined and ded­i­cated,” he re­counts of his early years in the tea busi­ness, when his weekly wage of seven shillings was just enough to take him to and from work by train, as well as pay the rent for a small room next to the train sta­tion.

Sethia picked up enough knowl­edge to im­press an Ir­ish tea mer­chant, who sug­gested that he set up a com­pany in In­dia to pur­chase tea leaves on the man’s be­half. Again, Sethia got his fa­ther’s bless­ings to travel alone to Calcutta to set up the ven­ture. He was only 16.

As Sethia’s rep­u­ta­tion grew, more and more Ir­ish mer­chants be­gan to ap­proach him for tea ex­ports and his busi­ness pros­pered. He later ac­quired a tea plan­ta­tion in As­sam and spent 11 months on site to learn about tea cul­ti­va­tion and pro­cess­ing.

When his fa­ther died in 1965, 24-year-

old Sethia re­ceived an in­her­i­tance that he would use to found a com­pany that is today the N. Sethia Group, a fam­ily-owned con­glom­er­ate widely in­vested in in­dus­tries from fi­nance and real es­tate to power sup­ply and, more fa­mously, gold min­ing. Af­ter decades away from his orig­i­nal pas­sion, how­ever, Sethia turned his eyes back to tea and bought over Newby Teas, a Bri­tish brand, in 2000.

“Ev­ery sin­gle in­ter­na­tional brand of tea in the world was try­ing to pro­mote ‘tea’ as ‘fine tea’. To me, this was crim­i­nal. There is no com­pany in ex­is­tence in the world which cares to put its ef­forts into pre­serv­ing the his­tory of tea. This was why I de­cided to es­tab­lish Newby Teas in or­der to re­vi­talise the cul­ture of tea and to ed­u­cate the pub­lic on the dif­fer­ence be­tween qual­ity and or­di­nary tea.”

He adds: “Fine tea does not re­quire any add-ons be­cause it has its own char­ac­ter, taste and unique sub­tlety and re­ac­tions on the pal­ette. It is only when the tea has no char­ac­ter or those serv­ing the tea do not know how to brew it that they will rec­om­mend adding milk, lemon, sugar or any other ad­di­tives to mask the bad taste of the brew.

“A good tea be­comes good only when you have ded­i­cated the time of go­ing through the rit­u­als and know­ing the art of brew­ing. A fan­tas­tic tea [makes the drinker go] ‘Wow, wow, wow’ for a pro­longed time and not mo­men­tar­ily.”

It is this deeply held be­lief, among oth­ers, that led Sethia to pull Newby out of the Bri­tish Guild of Fine Food’s Great Taste Awards in 2012, af­ter win­ning 65 times since it started tak­ing part in 2006. Why? Be­cause Sethia did not be­lieve that milk should be used in the tast­ings dur­ing judg­ing.

His own pre­ferred brew is nat­u­ral, sin­gle-va­ri­etal teas such as Kan-Junga (a Hi­malayan black tea), dar­jeel­ing and jas­mine.

Money No Ob­ject

Newby Teas ’ Sin­ga­pore of­fice was es­tab­lished last year as the first step in its ex­pan­sion plans for Asia. HongKong , Shang­hai and Bei­jing are next on the list this year.

As part of his per­sonal trib­ute to tea, as well as to his l ate wife Chi­tra, Sethia cre­ated a col­lec­tion of tea ac­ces­sories called The Chi­tra Col­lec­tion in 2011. Worth tens of mil­lions of eu­ros, it is what he deems “the big­gest sin­gle pri­vate tea ac­ces­sories col­lec­tion in the world” and in­cludes his­tor­i­cal pieces.

Among his favourites are the Sil­ver Gilt Mon­key teapot from 1600s Ger­many and the Moon teapot, which is a mod­ern enam­elled pot stud­ded with di­a­monds and pearls that he de­signed. In­deed, he has put his hand to sev­eral teapot de­signs, many of which are stud­ded with di­a­monds, ru­bies and emer­alds, and cast in gold, sil­ver and enamel.

Sethia has ob­vi­ously pumped mil­lions into his new ven­ture, to which he says: “Tea is my hobby, so I don't re­ally care if I make no money out of Newby.”

品茶不以外表,而以内涵来品论。” “ 精

英国New­by精品茶公司创办人兼主席 Nir­mal Sethi­a经常把这句话挂在嘴上。“品茶是 我的爱好,就算公司不赚钱,我也不在乎。”由 此可见这名73岁的富商对茶有多么痴狂。

Nir­mal出生于一个知名的印度家族,世代从 商,是第三代英籍印度人。14岁时,叛逆的他做 出了一个惊人的决定——放弃升学,离开家族的 荫护,在外自力更生。通过朋友的帮忙,Nir­mal 在一家伦敦茶叶贸易公司当学徒,工资是一个星 期7先令,虽然薪资微薄,但足够让他搭火车上 班及在车站旁租一个小房间。

“父亲是一个有智慧的人,喜欢我叛逆的性 格,允许我离家在外独自闯荡。为了生存,我把 全副心思放在工作上。刚开始,所有茶叶看起来 都一样,不过后来,我学到不以外表而是要以茶 性来品论它们。”

16岁时,Nir­mal获得幸运之神的眷顾。一 名爱尔兰茶商问他有没有兴趣到印度设立公司, 帮他代买茶叶。与父亲商量后,Nir­mal决定单 枪匹马到印度的加尔各答开公司。由于口碑良 好,其他爱尔兰茶商随后也找上Nir­mal帮忙,让 他的生意渐渐上轨道。之后,Nir­mal在阿萨姆 (As­sam)买下一个茶庄,并在那里住了11个 月,细心钻研茶叶种植和加工。

1965年,Nir­mal的父亲过世。24岁的他把 印度的茶庄交给下属管理,回到英国继承一部分 遗产,并创立了N Sethi­a集团,经营金融、房产 投资、电力供应等生意。2000年,Nir­mal再次把 心思投入茶业,创立了New­by精品茶公司。

他说:“我当时看到每个国际品牌都通过 宣传,把自家的次 等茶当精品茶来 卖。对我而言, 这是欺骗消费 者,是有罪的。我于 是决定创建Newby,旨 在振兴逐渐衰亡的茶文 化,教育公众分辨精品茶与 普通茶的不同。”

他在盛产茶叶的加尔各答造 了一座保鲜和包装厂,具备先进的温 湿度调控及空气净化系统。Newby 是茶业界唯一拥有这类设备的茶公 司。

Nir­mal对茶叶品质的执着获 得业界肯定。2006年以来, New­by茶叶屡次在英国“超 级美味奖”、“北美茶叶冠 军评比大赛”等国际茶叶比赛 中脱颖而出,至今已赢得了超过80 个奖项。与此同时,New­by也成为瑞典王室、 Vacheron Con­stantin名表贵宾室、迪拜七星级帆 船酒店等的指定茶叶供应商。

在欧美取得耀眼成绩后,New­by开始把目 光聚焦亚洲,并于去年在新加坡设立分公司。 Nir­mal说:“亚洲人发明了茶文化。茶是大自然 给予东方的一个礼物。对任何想在东方开展业务 的茶公司而言,新加坡和香港是正确选择。我计 划在今年于香港、上海和北京建立据点,这不但 能帮助我们在该市场推介上等黑茶,也有助于我 们学习更多关于绿茶、白茶和乌龙茶的知识。”

品茶自然需要茶具,茶具自古以来是茶文化 的重要组成部分。有鉴于此,Nir­mal在2011年决 定成立“The Chi­tra Col­lec­tion”,专门收集世界 各地的精品古董茶具,这也是目前世界最大的私 人茶具收藏,价值数千万欧元。

Nir­mal喜欢喝纯天然茶,不喜欢掺杂不同茶 叶,Kan-Junga、大吉岭及茉莉花茶都是他的最 爱。“精品茶是不需要任何添加物的,因为它有 自己的个性、味道,会带来独特与微妙的味蕾感 受。只有次等茶或不会泡茶的人才会添加牛奶、 柠檬、白糖等来掩盖难喝的茶味。只有当你花时 间遵守泡茶步骤,了解泡茶艺术,方能泡出一壶 好茶。一杯好茶会让你惊叹许久……”

Moon Teapot (2013)

Dres­den Sil­ver-Glit Mounted Rub­in­glas Teapot (the glass 1713-1718)

Sil­ver Gilt Mon­key Pot (1600)

Ele­phant Teapot (2012)

Mala­chite Horse Teapot (2012)

Mr Sethia (Photo: Gulf Con­nois­seur)

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