International figures shared their global coffee and tea perspectives at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's recent Coffee, Tea & Water conference in Nashville. In his keynote speech, Juan Esteban Orduz, president of the Colombian Coffee Federation, described the role the federation has played in raising the standard of living for coffee growers and their families. Also presenting were Stephen Twining, a 10th generation member of England’s most famous tea family, and Luz Marina Trujillo, the third-generation owner of the Santa Elena coffee estate in Costa Rica.
NASHVILLE -- Stephen Twining, global ambassador for the Twinings of London brand and tenth-generation member of England's famous tea family, educated operators attending NAMA's Coffee, Tea & Water conference on the finer points of tea quality and preparation.
The tea aficionado, who drinks at least nine cups of the beverage a day, emphasized that no single tea fits all occasions or moods and that the beauty of tea is that there are so many varieties available to suit every need or desire throughout the day.
A typical day in the life of Stephen Twining, for example, might start with cup of English Breakfast to get him going in the morning, followed by a cup of Ceylon orange pekoe or Darjeeling. After lunch, he said Earl Grey is his likely choice, followed by a green tea. After dinner, it's usually a cup of jasmine tea, peppermint or chamomile to wind down.
Twining's advice to tea drinkers? "Drink what you like, when you like and how you like, because, it's a very personal experience." The British tea expert has one caveat: "Milk or lemon are fine, but sugar and honey are frankly barbaric! I don't like sugar in hot tea because it dominates the flavor; the sugar is the first thing you taste."
Twining makes an exception to his no-sugar rule for iced tea. "Adding a little sugar to iced tea helps hold the flavor," he said. Sugar is also acceptable to Twining in chai tea, a black tea with ginger, cardamom and other spices inspired by the sweet, milky drink originating in India. "A little sugar or honey accentuates the spiciness," he said.
The tea aficionado guided CT&W participants through the process of expertly steeping black and green teas and herbal infusions, which are commonly called herbal teas. He recommends placing the tea bag into the cup first, and then adding hot water and letting it steep for about three minutes for full extraction of both flavor and antioxidants. With black teas, Twining said it's best to add the water just as it boils. For green teas, he advised waiting for five minutes for the temperature to drop before adding the water, since too high of a temperature can result in a bitter taste.
To prepare iced tea, Twining advised making hot tea twice as strong and pouring it over an amount of ice equivalent to the water used to brew the tea. He added that tea bags that Twinings designed specifically for cold brewing take longer but produce the same quality end product.
The tea expert said Twinings tea bags deliver the taste and quality associated with loose teas in a convenient format that's the choice of the majority of today's busy consumers. He showed office coffee service operators that Twinings teabags contain one gram of tea in each of their two chambers and are designed for optimal brewing.
Twinings has also formulated its teas for single-cup pods used in the Keurig and Tassimo brewing systems.
"If you have good tea in the bag and treat it right when you prepare it, you will get a great cup of tea in convenient form," he said. "The taste is the same from the tea bag or loose leaf or pod. It's your choice. Twinings is 307 years old and we only put our name on it if the quality is there."
Twinings sources its tea across the globe and just nine master blenders with refined sets of taste buds and a minimum of five years of training each are responsible for ensuring the quality and consistency of every type of tea the company produces. The tea for every blend is tasted 15 times between the plantation and packing of the final product, according to Stephen Twining.
He explained that tea is like coffee: Every time it is picked it has a different flavor. So Twinings is dependent on the skill of its tea blenders to make sure each of its teas deliver the consistent taste consumers expect.
Twinings tea drinkers can also feel good about the product they're drinking. In 1997, the company was a founding member of the Ethical Tea partnership that ensures tea is ethically grown, both socially and environmentally.
The tea expert concluded by extending CT&W participants an open invitation to visit Twinings headquarters.