“My dear, if you could give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better understand your affairs.”-Charles Dickens
When you live in a country where chai is the most important start to your day and a Parsi household where milky “choi” is as important as any of your meals in the day you get a sense of how deeply tea is integrated in our lives. As you grow older, cutting chai holds little or no appeal and it’s fashionable to drink earl grey and the latest trend – Green tea! But apart from the five or six names we are used to most of us are unaware of the variety of tea out there.
I was greatly ignorant about the fascinating world of tea till I was lucky enough to attend a tea tasting event this evening. Twining, the 300 yr old tea tsars have decided to educate the Indian public on the finer nuances of tea and the various different types available.
It was an interesting evening, kicked off by Stephen Twining who is the 10th generation of Twining who walked us through the different types of teas they retail currently and doled out a little tea trivia. ( I did not know it takes 3 minutes for a tea bag to brew correctly, and that no amount of dunking the tea bag repeatedly, does NOT make any difference to the tea. Or that there is no difference between loose tea and tea bags. There is absolutely no difference in quality, the tea bag is just a matter of convenience and infact it is the exact same tea that is either sold loose or put into a bag to make life a wee bit easier- I really did not know that) Something else I realise is the grave difference between high tea and afternoon tea. What we refer to as high tea actually isn’t. What we know as high tea with finger foods and scones is actually what the British refer to as “low tea ” or “Afternoon tea” served on a low table. High tea is traditionally a working class meal served at the end of the work day (say 5pm) on a high table. So the menu would include heavy dishes like kidney pie, bakes, fish dishes and other heavy foods. I find it amazing because most restaurants advertise their High Tea Menus but its actually the Low Tea that they mean.
Stephen Twining and Jeremy Struges
In other cosmopolitan cities like Beijing Shanghai, New York London etc it is not uncommon to pay a pretty penny for a cup of tea. High teas and afternoon teas are extremely popular affairs and maybe now its India’s turn to join. They had this event because Twining believes that India is now ready to not just drink tea but enjoy the tea drinking experience. They are soon going to launch their “Twining Ritual Loose Tea Range” and decided to give us a sneak preview of the teas and some interesting tastings.
Jeremy Struges who is one of their nine master blenders and known for his vast knowledge on teas from all over the world, particularly the Indian and Sri Lankan ones took us through a little tea tour. He showed us a sample of each tea and gave us a little background about it, allowing everyone to touch and feel the texture and smell their distinct aroma.
Jeremy Struges – Master Blender
Out of the 21 different teas from across the world we were lucky to try about eight. I can’t seem to remember half their names and but I remember really enjoying the Russian Caravan which is a white tea if I’m not mistaken and decaffeinated so it’s extremely light and I thought it was perfect. The peppermint one smelled divine but I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Another fascinating discovery was the tea cocktails. I have to say I found that pretty creative and I’m sure enjoyable. Of course the alcohol and tea combination will raise the potency levels but you don’t hear me complaining!
I have never been an avid tea drinker and I actually enjoy my teas without milk. I don’t know if my experience this evening has converted me to actively start drinking tea but I do know that I’m very eager to try the experience. This is probably very un – Indian like of me but where most people enjoy a STRONG cup of tea I look forward to sampling the slightly milder teas. In a world where coffee is always considered sexy, I think tea is very classy. When people ask me if I want to head out and grab a coffee I can’t help but quote Sting – “I don’t drink Coffee I take Tea my dear”