Stephen Twining.
Stephen Twining.

Twinings’ global ambasador shares the secret to a good cuppa

WITH the name of Stephen Twining, you'd think it was inevitable he would end up in the family business.

As the global ambassador for the Twinings tea empire, Stephen was recently in Australia to share his expertise on what makes a good cup of tea, a brand that has had the royal seal of approval since 1837.

"It's a varied job description being a 'Global Ambassador' for Twinings," Stephen said. "The very top of the list of responsibilities is that we supply our products to the royal household. The way the rules work is that we appoint one person to make sure the rules surrounding their use are fully adhered to.

"I have that honour of being the 'warrant holder' as such, and having to look after two of the most important customers in the world. But of course the first rule is the rule of confidentiality, so I can't tell you what they drink each morning.

"Having that royal connection, that coat of arms on our product, gives Twinings a huge amount of credibility. We were given it in 1837 from Queen Victoria. It's nice to know they appreciate the quality of tea we make.''

Tea has changed in the last 20 or so years, with more varieties than ever, including huge growth in green and chai teas across Europe and Australasia.

"There are always things in common around the world, for example down here in Australia you have a few blends that you won't see anywhere else. We control all the quality of our teas centrally, and for example Lady Grey actually started in Scandinavia then spread around the world, but it's the same blend everywhere. What makes it taste different in Australia to say, Norway, is the water.

"Australian Afternoon tea is another example. It's a fantastic blend and only available Down Under.

"Our customers expect us to make a range of great teas. For example, green tea drinkers don't just want one blend. Tea is like wine, in that a chardonnay from the Yarra Valley is different to one from the Margaret River and it's due to the growing location," Stephen said. "The tea bush is exactly the same.

"Most of the tea still comes from China, and when Thomas Twining started the company 310 years ago tea only came out of China, so we've always had very strong trading links with the Chinese and used many of their teas in our blends. But what's exciting about the industry is that there are a whole range of world teas so readily available now. I have a personal theory that anywhere where people appreciate good food they include tea in that mix, because they understand what quality means in tea."

So how do you have your cup of tea Australia? Stephen was asked to narrow it down to just three tips to make the perfect cup of tea, and it all comes down to patience, and water.

1. "Use fresh cold water in the kettle every time, as it has more dissolved oxygen. That's what gets the flavour from the tea. Never reboil the water. Just as it comes to the boil, that's the perfect time. Leaving it to boil means it's not going to get any hotter."

2. "Taste is down to you, but English Breakfast belongs with breakfast. Try new teas and how milk or sugar in there is up to the individual."

3. "Be patient. For 5000 years until the tea bag was invented people brewed using loose tea. Now people think tea bags are 'instant food' and jiggle the bag for a quick result. It can't be done. The colour of the tea doesn't represent the flavour. It takes a good 2-3 minutes to get the full flavour so let it brew."

Stephen drinks around nine cups of tea a day, but likes to mix it up. "My personal favourite right now is Ceylon Orange Pekoe.''

Feeling inspired? Try this tea-smoked salmon recipe at home:

Tea-smoked salmon:

INGREDIENTS: 2x 200g salmon fillets 1/4 cup black tea leaves 1/4 cup dry rice 2 tbs water 1 wok 1 bamboo steamer basket with foil lid.

METHOD: Line the wok with three sheets of foil. Mix the tea, rice and water together and place in the wok over the foil. Place the steamer basket over the tea mix. Spray with oil and put the salmon skin side down in the steamer basket. Season with a little salt and put on the lid. Turn the stove on high and place wok on the heat. When the tea mix starts to smoke turn down to med-low and cook for 5-7 minutes or until fish is cooked. - Matt Sawtell

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