Stephen Twining is tenth generation of the famous tea family and remains as passionate about tea as his forefathers. Based in the UK, Stephen is currently in New Zealand to celebrate the launch of the new Twinings New Zealand Earl Grey, an Earl Grey blend with a twist of orange blossom specially selected by New Zealanders themselves.
How long have you actually been involved in the family business and what does your current role entail?
I officially joined the company, working in our original shop on the London Strand, in1985, later that year joining the sales team. I am now the Global Ambassador for the company, which is really all about opening up the incredible world of tea to as many people as possible.
How often do you come to New Zealand and what is your favourite thing about this country?
I was last in New Zealand in November / December last year, but generally come once a year. I have always said that it is the people who make the place, and New Zealanders have always been very welcoming and hospitable, so I always very much look forward to coming. On top of that the food is excellent, the countryside beautiful, and yes I could easily go on longer.
You drink at least nine cups of tea a day – which teas do you drink at what stage ofthe day?
A good strong cup of English Breakfast, or when in New Zealand, as New Zealand Breakfast tea is a great way to start the day. I generally look forward to a Ceylon Orange Pekoe at 10ish and then Darjeeling around mid to late morning. Immediately after lunch it has to be Earl Grey, Lady Grey or the new, New Zealand Earl Grey. The afternoon is more down to how I am feeling, and what the weather is going. On hot sunny days, a Green tea and Lemon, or Prince of Wales. On cooler days, a Chai is a great warming cuppa, or back to the breakfast teas. The evening is certainly the time for the gentle Green teas or Chamomile and Peppermint will feature after dinner.
What is your favourite tea of all and why?
I love the wide variety of tea. One tea does not fit all occasions or moods, so I only ever drink my favourite tea, it is just that it changes constantly!
How educated in general about tea do you think New Zealanders are compared to the rest of the world?
I think the knowledge and appreciation of tea in New Zealand is well above average.
What is something fascinating about the tea industry that people may not know?
That the flavour of tea from an individual garden changes noticeably each week. Soyour cup of New Zealand Breakfast tea is made from teas from different tea gardens each time we blend (mix) it. So it is the skill of the tea blenders, to make sure each of our teas has a constant taste from varying ingredients.
What would a typical day for you involve?
I am not sure I have days that are typical, which I rather like. The only constant factor is that I will be talking tea to as many people as possible.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy sailing, for the peace and tranquility. The odd game of tennis or two. Long walks in the country, and the company of family and friends, which might also involve a glass of some of New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir or another fine wine. And recently I have developed an interest in trying to cook. Early days!
What was the last book you read?
Blood and Sand by Frank Gardener
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