Related News

Home » Feature » People

Spotting British high tea

STEPHEN Twining, the 10th generation of the world-famous Twinings tea family, is the perfect person to introduce the essence of British afternoon tea to locals.

To many people, the institution of afternoon tea represents an elegant lifestyle.

But these days Twining is too busy to enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea every time he visits Shanghai, since his schedule is booked.

This time, he hosted a tea party as part of an exchange between British and Chinese tea cultures. There were British antiques, sweet music and a short talk by Twining, who also spoke at the Rockbund Art Museum about the legendary tea company founded in 1706 in London.

Born in 1963 in Hertfordshire, Twining prepared his first tea tasting for schoolmates, with a little help from his father. They were delighted by the "ordinary" Indian tea.

He was educated in Kent and Milton Abbe, later studying in Australia. He worked for a small financial company and then worked as a tea agent, learning all about tea and tasting skills. In 1985, he joined the family company.

Now he is Twinings ambassador for the tea that was beloved by Jane Austen, Queen Victoria and the second Earl Grey (for whom Earl Grey tea was especially blended).

Q: What's the difference between British and Chinese tea cultures?

A: Chinese tea culture embraces every part of tea. The biggest difference is that British tea culture has fixed times. For example, we would drink tea after breakfast, at afternoon tea and after dinner.

Q: Do you drink tea?

A: I drink tea throughout the entire day. Every day I drink around nine cups of tea.

Q: Please describe Twinings.

A: Our story started in 1706 when the most popular drinks in England were coffee, gin and ale. Although tea had been drunk in China for thousands of years, it had only just been imported to England and lots of people were suspicious of it.

Thomas Twining, founder of Twinings, had enough of drinking ale in the morning. He then started selling tea from his coffee house in London. In 1706, he opened the first tea room at 216 Strand, London, that still operating today.

Q: What's the charm of British afternoon tea?

A: It not only refreshes the body but the mind as well. The tea would sooth one's physical body, while good company for afternoon tea is also enjoyable. Sometimes the hostess would display her collection of heirloom ceramics and silver. For example, I have brought an antique tea caddy and teapot to his event.

Q: What's your favorite Chinese tea?

A: I like Pu'er tea and dew green tea. My choice depends on my mood.

Q: Why are there carvings for two Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) figures at the entrance of Twinings tea room in London?

A: The entrance was designed by Richard Twining, grandson of Thomas Twining, because then we only sold tea from China.

Q: What's special about Earl Grey tea?

A: The second Earl Grey, the former British prime minister, got a special recipe in China in 1930 and asked us to blend the same tea for him.

(The strong-tasting smoky black tea is generally made with a mixture of Lapsang Souchong, Indian Darjeeling and Ceylon Tea flavored with extract of bergamot orange rind. There are many different blends.)

Where to enjoy that British institution

British afternoon tea is known for elegance, leisure and delicate cakes, served in fine china and tableware. Tea time can be quite refreshing, not only with excellent tea but also a variety of delectable cakes, scones, pastries and finger sandwiches.

It is sometimes known as low tea as it was originally served in mid-afternoon at low tables; high tea was more like dinner.

We recommend three places in Shanghai where you can experience authentic afternoon tea, with a wide choice of fine teas and pastries.

(Gao Ceng)

M on the Bund

Here is the place to refresh yourself and appreciate the view of the Huangpu River and Pudong skyline. Fifteen teas are on offer, including classics, blends, Chinese and herbal. Waiters offer advice on the right tea for the right season, for example, mint tea in summer, and tea with ginger and jujubes in winter.

Hours: 3:30-5:30pm (Sunday)

Price: 138 yuan (US$21.58)/person

Tel: 6350-9988

Address: 7/F, 5 Zhongshan Rd E1

Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund

The meticulously restored Waldorf Astoria offers daily "Red Velvet" afternoon tea in an elegant setting.

On offer are red teas, black teas such as Earl Grey with a nice smoky flavor and note of citrus, English Breakfast Tea, Darjeeling with floral aroma and various green teas, such as Biluochun.

Hours: 2-6pm

Price: 288 yuan/person

Tel: 6322-9988

Address: Lobby, 2 Zhongshan Rd E1

Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai

The hotel is known for a wide range of black teas, including Assam Mokalbarie with a lively aroma of malt and spices, well-balanced Orange Pekoe from Sri Lanka to flowery Himalyan Jungpana, a famous Darjeeling that is strong, rich and woodsy.

Hours: 3-6:30pm (Mondays-Fridays)

Price: 238 yuan (includes a glass of Champagne)

Tel: 6279-8888

Address: 1376 Nanjing Rd W.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend