This post is a Twinings advertorial
Last week, I had the great pleasure of visiting 216 Strand, the gorgeous Twinings store in the heart of London. I drank cups of tea brewed by a Twinings Master Blender, nosed around the usually rammo shop and learned more about Britain’s favourite beverage than I had even begun to consider before.
The Twinings store has been standing strong for just over 300 years (that’s 14 of my entire lifetimes) since Thomas Twinings landed there in 1706 with a promise to sell only the finest teas and coffees. That same store, I was informed, is usually full to the bursting in 2016 with tourists and Londoners alike on the hunt for their favourite blend – so wandering about unaccompanied taking pictures of whatever you fancy is a luxury afforded to few! It’s far smaller than you might imagine the only Twinings store in the UK to be, with just one long corridor lined with shelves of tea, opening into a tasting bar and tea museum at its end. The team in charge of dressing the place up for autumn had done an incredible job, that little nook of London is cosiness personified right now.
After half an hour of perusing the hundreds of teas on the shelves and inhaling the aroma of as many as I possibly could – paying rather close attention to the Christmas teas, as I’m sure you can imagine – it was time to sit down and let my soon to be new best friend Rishi educate me on tea to an expert level (kidding, we barely skimmed the surface of his expansive knowledge, but it certainly felt that way).
Rishi is easily one of my favourite people that I’ve ever met at this point (so much so that I asked if we could have a picture together at the end of the session). He’s one of only nine Master Tea Blenders for Twinings. There are only 8 other people in the whole entire world with the same job as him. He’s been with Twinings ever since he graduated, which was over twenty years ago, and the dude knows tea inside out and back to front – so you can imagine how excited I got when suddenly I was sat across the bar from him sipping from a cup of strong English breakfast brewed by his own fair hands!
As he was talking about the lengths gone to by everybody involved in the tea growing, processing, buying and blending stages, it occurred to me that my perception of Twinings up until this point had been wrong. I’d always seen it as a run of the mill, mid range quality situation, perhaps because I was so used to seeing it on the supermarket shelves and in the cupboards of everybody I knew. Turns out, Twinings is really one of the highest quality tea brands around – and they’ve been doing what they do to a near perfect standard for literally hundreds of years.
Rishi took us through so much information about where tea grows, where it originated from and how much effort goes into the perfect cup but the facts I remembered were, of course, about how us Brits tend to get it so, so wrong. It’s been a pet peeve of mine for quite some time, how many people seem incapable of making a proper cuppa, and I heard with great relief that I’ve been right on the matter the whole time.
Things that Rishi proved me right about:
1 – You have to let a teabag brew for about 3-4 minutes to get the best possible taste. Those heathens at the office that just dunk the teabag, give it a squeeze and then chuck it in the bin are ruining tea for everyone. Do not let them continue.
2 – Milk goes in after the teabag comes out. Not before, not during, after. No exceptions.
FYI – you can go get a tea tasting session with somebody just like Rishi yourself for £30!
After Rishi had told us all about the whats, whens and whys of tea growing and processing, it was time for us to get to the bit I’m always waiting for, the answer to the question: “how can I somehow turn this situation into one that involves food?”
I came away from the evening knowing which flavours to pair with which teas, I thought it only right to share that information with you lot, so here you are:
Earl Grey – here paired with lemon shortbread and lemon cake. Anything with a citrussy flavour will match well with this cup.
Spicy Chai – fruitcake to meet the spicy flavour of chai or a delicious vanilla cupcake to offsset it slightly.
Strong English Breakfast – a classic British tea break essential like scones with jam and cream or banana bread or cake for a breakfasty feel.
Thank you so much to Twinings for inviting me along to their store and letting me hear all about the wonderful world of Twinings tea from the lovely Rishi, I had an amazing time! Check out this page to see this experience through the eyes of other bloggers and their recipes! Keep an eye out next week for a delicious recipe using Twinings English Breakfast and the chance to win some tea..