MiNDFOOD is holding three special reader high teas in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland in conjunction with Twinings. We talk tea with Stephen Twining himself ahead of the event.
As a 10th generation Twining, was it always expected that you would work in tea?
There was never a pressure to join the company, which is the family tradition. Happily for me, I am passionate about tea and so it’s wonderful to be in a job that I really want to do.
How did you come to work in the family business?
Since the age of eight, when I made the connection between my name and the company, and made the realisation that even at that age, I knew more about it than most, I have wanted to work for Twinings. I started in our original shop in the London Strand, and progressed from there in to the main sales team. I have spent time in our U.K. and internal marketing teams, as well as in manufacturing, and as a tea taster. All those roles were great training for what I now do.
If you didn’t work in tea, what would your next career choice be?
I have absolutely no idea at all. I can’t imaging not working in tea, and so never considered any other career.
In your opinion, does tea taste best from a fine china cup, or a mug? Or doesn’t it matter?
Certainly, the shape of the cup or mug has an impact on the taste of the tea. If the cup or mug flutes outwards, then your nose plays a part in the drinking process, and the delicate aroma can be enjoyed. This enhances the flavour and pleasure of the drink.
How many minutes does it take to get a perfect brew?
A tea bag is designed to give off the full flavour and the all-important antioxidants in three minutes. Any less than that, and you do not get either of them. The colour of the tea is just that, so although your cup might appear to be the right colour, the flavour will not be in the cup until three minutes have passed. To alter the strength of the tea, you need to alter the ratio of tea to water. The more water you add, the more diluted the strength of the tea.
Why the new NZ blends? Why not stick with the old favourites?
New Zealand tea drinkers enjoy trying new teas. So, yes of course we will continue to make the traditional blends, but we also need to provide new and different teas to meet the needs of people who like new and different flavours.
How many specific NZ blends are there now, and what are they?
There is only one truly unique tea that we just make for New Zealand, which is called ‘New Zealand Breakfast’ blend. Our New Zealand Earl Grey is a wonderful addition to the range, but since creating the blend, the British have taken to it as well.
How does the orange blossom in the NZ blend differ from the Seville orange in the original Earl Grey blend?
The main fruit in the Traditional Earl Grey is from the citrus fruit – the Bergamot. In the new blend, there is just a hint of Bergamot, and then the delicious orange and orange blossom, which creates a very different tea blend that is lighter, more delicate, but still wonderfully refreshing.
What is your personal favourite tea?
My favourite cup of tea changes throughout the day. I love to start off with a great cup or two of English Breakfast, or if in New Zealand, the New Zealand Breakfast is a lovely alternative. This is usually followed by a cup of Ceylon Orange Pekoe, and by mid morning, a Darjeeling hits the spot. After lunch, a cup of Earl Grey, Lady Grey, or the New Zealand Earl Grey. The afternoon very much depends on the weather and how I am feeling. On colder days, Chai is a great warming cup, or to relax, a Prince of Wales. Hot afternoons might need a refreshing Green Tea. After dinner, a Peppermint is great, or back to a delicate Green Tea again.
Do you ever drink coffee or are you are pure tea man?
I have up to two cups of coffee a week, but I am very much a tea man at heart.
The Auckland Twinings event has sold out but there are still a few places available for Wellington on July 19 and Christchurch on July 20. Tickets are $55. To book call MiNDFOOD 09 362 0770