An Afternoon with Tea Connoisseur Stephen Twining

Established by Thomas Twining in 1706, the brand just celebrated its 310th anniversary – with what else but an afternoon tea session at The Majestic Hotel’s Orchid Conservatory!

Twinings of London, often called just Twinings (pronounced TWYN-ings), is one of the world’s most popular brands of tea. Recently, FEMALE had an exclusive interview with its Director of Corporate Relations and Global Ambassador, Stephen Twining (a 10th-generation Twining), for the latest tea-tails on what inspires him and the brand’s biggest successes.


Stephen Twining: The man behind the tea


The Orchid Conservatory’s stunning, intimate setting

F: Which countries or places have been your most recent inspirations for tea flavours?

S: “Everywhere is different; everywhere has something special and unusual about it. So, I always try to look for the local inspiration, particularly when I’m eating. I look at good local food; I also like to try good local beer. You go for what is special to that location. Everywhere is a great place to be. I very much live in the ‘now’. I won’t be here for long, therefore I’m going to enjoy every opportunity I find here.”

F: Have you found any tastes you like in Malaysia?

S: “We had a very nice dinner, the fish I had last night was barramundi!”

F: What are your most popular teas?

S: “Earl Grey is certainly one of our most popular. It is, in my humble opinion, a few notches above the rest!”

F: And your most unique blends?

S: “Our English Breakfast. Everyone has their own take on it, but I hear so many people say, ‘Oh, I tried somebody else’s English Breakfast and it really wasn’t the same, so I’ll come back to yours, thank you very much!’ Then there’s our Rooibos with Caramel. The hint of extra taste there makes it more sophisticated.”

F: If you could make a flavoured tea out of anything, what would you make?

S: “I think there are some great fruits in this part of the world that we haven’t explored yet. We recently put mango into tea, which tasted terrific! I think we need to explore more exotic fruits. Dragonfruit would actually go very nicely into a tea.”

F: What sets Twinings apart from other tea brands?

S: “Our philosophy. We want to do everything really well. We have master tea-tasters who we train ourselves, knowledge that we’ve passed down for generations and absolute skills in being able to take different ingredients and blend them together. And then, we have a magic ingredient that runs not just through me and our tea-tasters but even our accountants: a passion for what we do! And with the passion for doing everything well, the willingness to go the extra mile to satisfy customers, that helps set us apart. And we certainly have that.”

Large Leaf Collection

Twinings’s latest offerings are guaranteed to tantalise the palate

Twinings’s latest, the Large Leaf Discovery Collection, comprises eight blends, which are all available at major supermarkets including Jaya Grocer, Village Grocer, Ben’s Independent Grocer and Hock Choon on Jalan Ampang. They retail for RM50 per blend. Check out the collection and more here!

MORE THAN JUST A NOVEL-TEA: tips and tricks you need to know about drinking tea

1. The colour of the tea does not indicate the flavour.

A lot of tea drinkers think that ‘swushing’ the bag around in the cup will enhance the tea flavour. In fact, this doesn’t allow the water to soak up the tea leaves properly, leaving you with less flavour.


2. The type of water you use DOES matter!

Tea straight out of the tap will, of course, taste the worst as there’s that metallic underlying taste. Distilled water will make your tea seem flat and even bitter. For the best experience, try using bottled water!

Image: Wikipedia

3. To enjoy a true tea experience, don’t add sugar!

Stephen advises us to instead appreciate the actual flavours of the tea and follow brewing instructions for the best taste. For certain teas, a splash of milk (of your preference) will go nicely.


4. The first tea bag was created in 1908.

Thomas Sullivan, a tea merchant, delivered tea leaves wrapped in silk to his customers. They were unsure of how to brew the tea and ended up submerging the entire bag in water. Funnily enough, this worked and the tea bag was born!

Image: Pinterest 

5. It doesn’t matter whether you pour in the milk or tea first.

Back in the day, milk was added to delicate, soft British porcelain to prevent the cups from cracking from the hot water. Sturdier Chinese porcelain could withstand the heat and wouldn’t crack, which the British figured out out only later. Now, much of porcelain is made using a non-crack formula, so you can make your tea however you want!


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