Only the best deserve an invitation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee celebrations, and speaking of tea-making, Twinings, an English company with more than 300 years of experience in the field, appears most qualified for this auspicious occasion.
Another milestone ... Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her diamond jubilee, marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
Early this year Britain kickstarted a series of festivities to celebrate the joyous 60th anniversary of the queen's reign, which is next month. The queen, now 85, is the world's second longest-reigning monarch, after King Bhumibol of Thailand.
Twinings, bestowed with a Royal Warrant since 1837, is no stranger to such celebrations. It was tasked to create a commemorative blend marking the 50th anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne in 2002 and another last year for the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Blend is ''an exclusive limited edition'' of which only 20,000 caddies will go on sale worldwide.
Stephen Twining: The special commemorative blend befits the cheerful occasion.
Stephen Twining, a descendant of Britain's celebrated tea-making family and the company's director of corporate relations, likens tea-making to that of wine, which requires full attention in every process. In creating this edition, he said, attention is carefully given not only to the taste and aroma of tea but also to its look.
The blend is the combination of two varieties of top black tea regarded ''the queen of teas'' _ India's Assam tea and China's Yunnan tea.
According to Twining, Assam tea leaves have golden tips _ the character befits the auspicious and happy occasion. Besides, it is also known for its body, briskness and malty flavour and strength.
And the source of tea also matters. And this makes the tea from Yunnan an inevitable component as Yunnan is the birth place of tea.
Twining explained that both black teas are good individually. ''But they work well together and the blend is better than the original component,'' he said of the blend.
In addition, while some blends are adjusted to fit the taste of locals, like English Breakfast, that is not the case with the diamond jubilee blend, which comes only in the form of leaf tea and not in a bag.
In addition to the flavour and aroma of the blend, the packaging design is also unique and exquisite. It presents, in a subtle design layout, national and cultural heritage of Britain, as well as artifacts that reflect the characteristic lifestyle of the English.
''The package contains symbols that represent Her Majesty,'' Twining said, referring to an image of a royal horse carriage from old-day England that is the centre of attention in the package design. It is surrounded by other meaningful elements: Red deer, the national animal of England; Tudor rose that represents the fond attachment between the royal family and the people; crown, diamond, bag and hat are some accessories that are bound to British culture for ages; horse racing, which is regarded as a royal sport; and tea cup that conveys the link between the royal family and tea drinking culture.
The bright and vibrant design, he added, is to signify cheerful occasion and qualify it as a collectible item. Caddies on sale outside of the UK, including Thailand, are available in three colours _ pink, blue and green _ while white and gold caddies are available only in Britain.
Heritage and Anecdote of Twinings of London
1662 _ Tea was introduced in England for the first time by the young Portuguese wife of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, who served it to her aristocratic friends at the Royal Court and soon tea became the fashionable drink of the day.
1706 _ Thomas Twining (1675-1741), who developed a huge fascination for the tea business, founded the house of Twining by purchasing a coffee house on London's Strand _ then the back of the present site. He imported tea and sold it on the premises and that heralded what was to become the world famous Twinings tea company. Today, the shop, while operating trade, also attracts customers _ mostly foreign tourists _ with the display of by-gone tea items, books of tea and other accessories. 1706 also becomes one of the famous blends of Twinings.
In the early days of tea trading, the British government imposed an enormous 119% tax on the drink, which was then seen by doctors as bad for health. Tea was also opposed by the church for its foreign origin _ China. The tax made tea a super expensive drink only for the wealthy.
In 1784, Richard Twining (1749-1824), the third generation tea-maker, successfully managed to convince the government to cut back the tea tax to make the drink more accessible to all and that would mean more income to state coffers. So, 1784 was the year that Britain became the tea-drinking nation it is today.
- A belief that milk must be poured to the cup before the tea, the traditional English tea-making style, is not about the taste as widely (mis)understood. In fact, the method was developed for scientific reasons. In the old days, the quality of porcelain (which was then called "china" for its origin) was not very good and it could hardly withstand hot tea water. Pouring milk into the cup before the tea was to ensure that the cup would not crack.
- Twinings first blended Earl Grey as a tribute to Charles Earl Grey II, the British prime minister, around 1830-1834. The prime minister, who received the tea from a Chinese nobleman, asked Twining to make a similar blend. Earl Grey then becomes one of the finest and most popular teas in the world.
- Queen Victoria granted Twinings its first Royal Warrant for tea in 1837. She appointed Twinings as supplier of teas in her household. Twinings has had the honour of supplying every successive British monarch to date.
- Twinings created its English Breakfast in 1933. It was followed by Irish Breakfast and Ceylon blends.
- In 1956, Twinings made tea bags for the first time.
- In 1964, Twinings was acquired by Associated British Foods, who sold Twinings in more than 115 countries worldwide, and Twinings became the world's leading premium brand of tea.
- Twinings became the first tea company to win a Queen's Award for Export in 1972.
- Twinings met demand for decaffeination. Hence decaffeinated tea was created for the first time in the 1980s.
- In 1996, Twinings introduced its first organic teas.
- In 2002, Twinings launched the Queen's Golden Jubilee Commemorative Blend.
- In 2006, Twinings celebrated its 300th anniversary of establishment.
- In 2011, Twinings was granted the honour, from the British royal family, to blend "Royal Wedding Commemorative" to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
About the author
- Writer: Ploenpote Atthakor
Position: Deputy Editorial Pages Editor