[Lifestyle] Twinings of London | The Art of Tea – The Royal Diamond Jubilee Blend | 31 May 2012

“On tasting, the Assam comes through straight away- thick, robust and malty with a little astringency, giving way to a different length in the character of the tea – it is followed by the Yunnan which is sweet, mellow and really delicious “ – Twinings

2012 is the year of the Dragon, the leap year where February has an extra day and maybe, the End of The World, or it’s just the Mayan had a smoke one too many (I still believe 2012 is the year of ‘change‘ to the next Age, but no one ask me that).

This year is special especially for London, England. They are having not only the 2012 Summer Olympics will be held there, but also the Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary or as we know, Queen Elisabeth II of the United Kingdom, celebrates her 60 years on the throne. Hence, we commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. With tea.

(I’m geek-ing over this Google Doodle Google have on June 2, 2012)

I’m more of a coffee drinker myself, but sometime I dabble with a cup of tea or two. I’m very fond of Earl Grey so it’s a honor to hitchhike my mother’s invitation to Twinings of London The Art of Tea Royal Diamond Jubilee Blend launching at Hotel Indonesia Kempinski.  Coincidentally, my aunts and one of my cousins are on the list and we share a table.

Our party arrive around 2 pm and head to the th floor and is accosted by a guest book and a photographer (in that order). Each of us may or may not take a photo with the lovely carriage with the title of the show (just in case some people like to fb/twit/bb/social media this).  Not for me. Thanks. But my mother has a nice framed picture taken by the designated photographer. Mine is better (Ziggy is well behave). Thank you.

We are seated near the stage on a 6 seats table for an afternoon tea. A brief history about this pass time originally for the British to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. That is between 2 pm and 5 pm as what we’re going to do now, which will include tea and various snacks raging from petite cakes and sandwiches.

I take a look on the table set they have provide for us. Covered in champagne colored table cloths and in the center of the table a pleasing center pieces of flowers, a box of Twinings tea and a special tin can of the Twinings The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and a lovely tea set from the The Royal Doulton.  I don’t know my china, but this English company is a prestige tableware & collectibles from 1815 by John Doulton, Martha Jones, and John Watts, with a factory at Vauxhall Walk, Lambert, London. Even the Royals approved! By 1901 King Edward VII sold the factory its Royal Warrant (traders of goods and service for the Royal uses, bearing a coat of arms) and became the Royal Doulton. These are so, so pretty and precious and fragile I’m afraid my clumsy self may drop and click the porcelain some damage.

Let us have another history lesson or two. Twinings as our host today, is a well known tea merchant since the early 1700 founded by  Thomas Twinings. Its first tea room is located in Strand, London since 1706 to the present day where you can buy Twinings tea and see the museum (it’s on my travel list for London). In 1983 Twinings is given the Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria. They have online shops and modern supermarket and shops all over the world sell the most common tea and some special blends. If you’re curious, here’s one from the shop in Strand. I have no idea where to start, but Earl Grey and English Breakfast are my favorites.

In the mean time, we have the tenth generation member of the Twinings dynasty, Stephen Twinings as our guest speaker. He speaks with my mother for a while but soon get pull to another table and makes his round. You can tell he’s a public man. In the (mostly) ladies audience he comes in with an English gentleman charm when he speaks as the guests come in and settle down.

At 3 pm the MCs starts with some introduction. A little joke here and there to bring the joyful atmosphere. They also pull some of the audience to have a ‘tea dance‘ or something. Yes lets hide. I have stage fright even when I’m not the one on stage. Hiding behind Ziggy helps.

The ice tea they serve is also good so I’ve been sipping between taking pictures. This is why I don’t really pay attention on what interrogation technique the MCs employ with my aunt. The MCs start pulling more audience to dance with the dancers in one, two, three, one, two, three. While the dancers are good, the reluctant audience they pair with are somewhat shy. It’s fun to watch though.

Once the dance, or two, or three, finish, we are formally introduce Stephen Twinings by the MCs. It’s a little ceremonial with the two men carrying the three colors: light green tosca, pastel pink and baby blue, of the Queen’s Royal Diamond Jubilee Blend to be unveiled by the Man of the Hour. I save the details for this tea when we get there.

Mr. Stephen Twinings brings us step by step with the first tea cup, which is the Lady Grey, a milder version of Earl Grey.

First we have hot boiled water settled in the teapot to warm it up, then have six teabags. While we wait for the tea to show up her color, we can have a little chat for three to five minutes, as Mr. Stephen Twinings says during his hopping from one table to another. He also explains that the tradition of tea in the Great Britain came in when the wife of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza, in 1662, likes it. At the time, men have their little soiree with coffee and liquor and the Lady brought in tea for the Ladies in the Court

The Lady is elegant indeed. She is made from black tea with subtle citrus taste and bergamot that goes well with a little cake. Mr. Stephen Twinings jokingly and seriously says we can add sugar or honey or milk for preference, but he thinks adding sugar to tea is barbaric! Oops, I’m one of the guilty party for adding milk and/or sugar to my tea, but not this time! My mother nudge me because she for one doesn’t like sugar in her tea.

We also have some Q&A from the audience and Mr. Stephen Twinings like to explain some of them. Here’s what I *sort* of remember (I need memory charm sometimes. Age is a factor one can’t resist. Pardon that). He says that there are many countries produce tea, such as India, China and of course Indonesia.  There are many factors like the type of tea produce, weather, time and places where not 2 batches of tea are the same. Twinings combine these various of teas for 300 years to make the perfect blend every single time. That’s quality there. Of course some part of the counties may or may not have your favorite ready or it’s discontinued in your region, but some variety online shops might still have the Twining brand in your preference.

Next we have what we come here for, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Blend. The rule is a tea spoon for a person, but I would like to think I prefer a thicker palate for my tea (non-sugar, non-milk for now) and quite happy with the generous 5 tea spoons of the Blend my aunt is having for us into the fresh new teapot with fresh boiled hot water. We wait for 5 or so minutes this time. Mr. Twinings also explaines that what we have with our tea cup is not a teaspoon but a coffee spoon which generally is smaller than a teaspoon.

Continuing this blend & the special packaging, it’s made to commemorate the Queen Elisabeth II Diamond Jubilee to celebrate her 60 years of ruling (from 1952 to 2012) with the Royal Warrant coat of arms just on the carriage silhouette on the front side. Twinings release for a loose leaf set, oval shape, with 3 colors that are light green tosca, pastel pink and baby blue. Peaking on their website, they also have the teabags set with square shape, with darker colors of tosca green, neon pink and (I like to name colors, so bear with me. I would like to say) Ben-hur Blue, which sadly aren’t here with us.

I have with me the blue one. Let me geek-out of the packaging here first because my designer-emo self demands it. As previous mention, we have the Royal Warrant up front just above the Twinings brand in the golden sillhouette carriage (like the one behind it), with the writing:

“By appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II
Tea & Coffee Merchants R.Twinings And Company Limited London”

Then “TWININGS” and “THE QUEEN’S DIAMOND JUBILEE Commemorative Blend”. Loose leaf tea. And the date of the Reigning Queen: 1952 – 2012. The tin can is nicely decorated with the gold embossed carriage. The pattern on the tin spots the Queen’s and the Royals lifestyle, i.e fashionable hat that she is famous for, shoes, flower, a crown and diamonds, her favorite companion animal corgi (a dog), some horses and deers (let me know if I miss anything).

On the back of the can we are given the history behind the Blend, which originally to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 and the description about the tea loose leaf itself. We’ve got the richness of the second flush Assam from the Brahmaputra Valley in North Eastern Assam, India, and the mellow Yunnan from South Western China. The Blend bring out the aroma even when the cap is open and taste malty and bold.

I was told by a friend from London to let the tea shimmer first in the teapot and pour with the strainer on the cup. Like now I’m kicking back and enjoying this wonderful tea with my mother, my aunts and my cousin…and Mr. Stephen Twinings himself try a cup from our table.

The last tea of this evening is the Twinings Passion fruit, Mango & Orange Tea. Like our first tea, we have a fresh hot boiled water with six teabags into a new teapot. This Black Tea type is laced with fruity flavors, which I admit very fresh and delicious, even if I prefer this type of tea with ice.

Mr. Stephen Twinings comments that because some people like it cold (and sometimes with sugar or honey, he says in slight disapproval), he suggests to double the teabags. Like say for a person, usually one teabag is enough, but two are much better with ice (with sugar or honey) to keep the flavor. Hmm, for a hot country like ours, I like the fruit flavors and might hunt some for myself. With ice. And Sugar or Honey.

Petite cakes and scones(?) with a generous cream and jam, are provide in the beautiful two-tiers plate. Personally I prefer the tuna sandwiches. This tea is good with snacks, and by 4 pm I’m quite hungry.

The last in the Agenda for today is the prizes teapots and special collections of tea from Twinings for the guests.

Our best hosts. A Limited Edition Twinings teapot in royal purple.

Our best dressed guests. A box of Twinings variant.

Our best guests in Q & A. A wooden box with Twinings variants.

And lastly, my self and my family with Mr. Stephen Twinings.

Last click: My goody-bag from Twinings consists of a nice white cup with the Twinings of London logo, a tea menu with the Twinings tea sold in Indonesia, a small royal purple limited edition can and the Diamond Jubilee 2012 in golden emboss (with 2 teabags each for the Classic Earl Grey and Classic Lady Grey).

Sources: Wikipedia, Twinings of London shop website, Twinings UK, Jakarta Globe online newspaper and Google.

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