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Country Cooking
More than just a pot of tea

By Micky Fenix
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:41:00 07/23/2008

Filed Under: Beverages, Lifestyle & Leisure

MANILA, Philippines?Stephen Twining sat at the head of the table at lunch at the Peninsula?s Old Manila. While we were offered iced tea choices of red raspberry and yellowish green tea and apple, we asked what he was having. ?I?m having something hot,? he said. He didn?t say which of the over 200 tea blends his company, Twinings, produces.

Later, when he was introduced as his company?s tea expert, this 10th-generation Twining revealed he drinks about 10 cups of tea a day. He has favorites like Earl Grey and English Breakfast but he says he chooses the flavor depending on his mood. Sometimes he takes English Breakfast when he has his afternoon tea to perk him up. And to calm him after a long day, it?s Green Tea with Mint.

Apart from the iced tea that we had in the beginning, we were going to have our own share of multi tea drinking. When it was time for dessert, three cups were placed in front of us, each cup with a different tea bag. Left to right it was Earl Grey, Green Tea and Mint and Passion Fruit, Mango and Orange.

For both wines and teas, flavors depend on the soil where they grow. Both products also depend on tasters to maintain the flavor quality. But while wines do change depending on the quality of the temperature and weather that year, tea tasters make sure the tea flavors remain the same year after year, changing the blends when the quality of tea leaves harvested throughout the world demands it.

Tea lessons

But first lessons first. How to steep tea properly.

When the hot water is added to the cup with the tea bag, don?t jiggle the bag, said Twining. Leave it alone for three minutes then stir, squeeze out the tea bag and enjoy the aroma first of all. The Earl Grey gives off a citrusy bouquet which comes from bergamot, a tree with sour fruits whose rinds give off essential oils used in perfumery. The mint was quite heady in the green tea. And the last tea bag mixed all the fruity aromas but one could really smell the mango.

Sipping came next and then Twining proposed that we take our pastries with a particular tea. He suggested how Earl Grey should go well with the profiterole while the rich chocolate pastry and the little layered cake with the Green Tea with Mint. The apple strudel was to be taken with the fruit-flavored tea.

In our information packet, tea recipes were also included. It had tea in alcoholic drinks like vodka martini and a mojito and in nonalcoholic mixes such as peach fizz and iced tea. Twining suggested that for iced tea, the ice cubes should also be made from the tea flavor so that the flavor doesn?t dissipate when the ice melts.

Pralines were served last and we were told those were infused with tea made by Belgian chocolatier Benoit Nicolay.

History

Stephen Twining traced back his family?s business to the 1700s, when coffee houses as meeting places were the vogue. How ironic that it was in the company?s coffee house when tea was introduced.

Earl Grey tea makes Stephen Twining wish he could move back time because the company didn?t lay claim to the formula or the name when they had done the blend for the British Prime Minister who was also known as the second Earl Grey.

And what about the practice of the English who drink tea with milk? Twining related how that began when potters of England tried to copy the fine porcelain cups that came out of China. What they produced cracked when hot tea was poured into the cups and the way to solve the problem was to put milk first before pouring in the hot tea.

When I told him how on a TV program the British guest had said milk should be poured in last especially by women because to pour in the milk first meant the drinker wasn?t a lady, he looked surprised and tried to suppress a laugh. Not true, he replied.

Writing award

Join the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award 2008. Subject this year is merienda or afternoon snack. All essays should be about 800 words. Submit entries to DGF Awards, 5th floor, c/o Prism, PDAF Bldg., Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City 1200. Deadline is Aug. 31. Print out the essay with your pen name written on it, submit a CD containing your entry and a separate envelope containing your pen name, real name, address, contact numbers and e-mail address. For more information, e-mail dgfawards@yahoo.com.ph or call Girlie at 8952021 and 8958184.


E-mail pinoyfood04@yahoo.com



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