My first taste of Twinings was when I moved to London (oh, a lifetime ago) to study – and I was introduced to Earl Grey. It was love at first sip. All my life I had drunk only milky chai – oh, I have nothing against it, I love it – and tea bags were still in the realm of fancy-but-why. The only redeeming thing about them was the catch ditty – dip, dip, dip… add some sugar… and milk… and you’re ready to sip. Do you want it stronger? Dip a little longer… And if you remember this and hummed as you read it, then welcome to the old people’s club. Anyway, so. Maybe I was just used to strong, brewed tea or that tea bag and milk don’t go together, but for whatever reason, they were not my thing till the Earl Grey experience. And now of course, I have a colourful collection of familiar and exotic teas from mint to orange blossom via apple and peppermint – something for all moods and occasions.
So when I got invited for the Twinings event in Bangalore, I was quite happy to go – I could think of nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon than taste teas accompanied by the right munchies. Oh yes, it is possible to pair teas with food, much like wine! Twinings has targeted India as one of its growth market in the next five years and Stephen Twining from the tenth generation of the family spoke with much passion about tea. Guided by their tea taster Georgina Durnford (who has spent years training her nose and palate to analyze and grade tea), we went through Earl Grey, English Breakfast and if I remember right, Peppermint (one of my all time favourites). And quite an elaborate ceremony it was – inhale the aroma, sip and swirl – all the drama of wine tasting.
[photographs by my super-talented photographer friend Madhu Reddy]
It’s interesting times ahead – I believe that India is inherently a chai country, the ever-expanding Cafe Coffee Days and the imminent entry of Starbucks notwithstanding. There are a lot of tea cafes that have opened across the country, and now with a brand like Twinings set to push their brand and various new flavours in the market, will coffee drinking Indians move back to tea? Or will the chai drinkers develop a taste for tea?
Also read: ‘Tis time for tea…