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Meet the Twinings

"Coffee is the sexy girlfriend, tea your long-time companion."

Only a man who's had a love affair with tea that long can make that statement. Meet Stephen Twining, the gentleman representing the 10th generation of the first 'Tea family', Twinings! For someone who drinks between nine to fifteen cups of tea a day and hosted his first tea-tasting session at an early age of eight years, having the right surname helps.

I was certainly delighted at receiving an invitation to meet the man himself on his recent visit to India. When one of the journalists asked how one should enjoy their teas, he laid out two very simple tasting rules and then followed it up with the third and most important rule - of thrashing the first two rules and coming up with your own (to suit your own palate). In my heart, I am ecstatic. "Which is the best tea? Which is your favorite tea?" are questions I find extremely difficult to answer as a Tea Expert. When I emphasize on tea as a subjective experience and that it differs for every person, place, mood etc, the individual asking me the question is usually never satisfied with my response. First meeting, and I am glad to note Mr. Tea and I are on the same page. This is the same approach we adopt at our Tea Tasting/ Tea Appreciation workshops. Tea is an experience I can only facilitate and not teach. Even on the Twining website this is how they share their advice on brewing:

The right way to brew:
It is common for tea drinkers to leave the bag in until their desired color is achieved. Brewing is all about personal preferences. There is no right or wrong way to achieve your desired color or strength. We would recommend two or five minutes of brewing time using freshly boiled water.
Considering India supplies the largest share of raw materials to Twinings and given their history with India, I did find it rather odd that it is only March 2012 that marks Mr. Stephen Twining's first official visit to India. With their Tea Taster in tow, they hosted a series of landmark events in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Here's sharing a picture story of what unfolded at the Tea Tasting session held at The Leela, Mumbai. A month after his visit, the timing seems perfect now. Just last week, we heard a formal announcement of tea being declared as the national drink of India. Twinings, which has presence in India’s now R10,000-crore tea market since 1997 enjoys a 35% share in the premium and super-premium tea-bag category. Talking about tea and food pairings and going beyond biscuits and samosas, Mr. Stephen Twining he was quoted as: But that would involve drinking tea sans sugar — which is how Stephen likes his cuppa. “I know Indians love copious milk and sugar, and I would never dream of telling one of the greatest tea-drinking nations in the world how they should drink their tea,” he said. “It is merely a suggestion from our side.” Excellent choice, Mr. Twining. That's from where we shall take over.
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