60.2 billion cups of tea are drunk a year, many of them by Nick Harman personally. He goes down to visit 300 year old Twinings Tea in Hampshire to discover more about their take on our national drink.
‘Shlooooooooooooorpppp!’ It’s a very loud sound and seems odd coming from Philippa Thacker who for the last ten minutes has been, dare I say, behaving in a perfectly ladylike fashion. ‘Slurrrrrrp’ she goes again and then accurately directs a jet of brown tea into her spittoon on wheels.
‘You don’t have to spit it out of course,’ she says, ‘it’s not like wine tasting where you’re avoiding the alcohol, but if you don’t spit then by the end of a tasting you will have drunk an awful lot of tea!’
As a Master Blender it’s part of Philippa’s job to ensure that each box of Twining’s black ‘breakfast tea’ or ‘everyday tea’ you buy in the shops is of the same quality and taste as the last and is true to the secret blend, which can contain up to forty separate teas.
Unlike wine, which is a once a year crop, tea is picked every day with the leaf quality varying every time so it’s the blenders’ job to assess each shipment of tea that comes in and create the correct blend for sale. Each blender has his or her own unique tasting spoon engraved with their name, a sweet touch that is so quintessentially British. Read more…