Twinings English Breakfast’s 80th Birthday.
Guest Feature by Natalie York:
I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea so going along to the 80th birthday of Twinings English Breakfast Blend, at the Savoy no less, sounded pretty exciting. To celebrate Masterchef winner Tim Anderson had put together a selection of breakfasts from across the 20th century to see how the most important meal of the day has changed throughout the decades, additionally we were promised a look at what breakfast might be like in 80 years time.
One of the best moments of the morning was having a chat and a cup of tea with Stephan Twining himself (quite a surreal experience), the tenth in a line that runs back 300 years to the company’s founder. Speaking to him you get a sense of just what a serious business tea can be with more and more interest now in creating exciting new flavours and studying the science behind them, tea tasting can be easily as rewarding as wine, plus I can now say that I’ve had a cup of tea made by Mr Twining himself! (He let it steep for 3 minutes). However, whilst new blends and flavours are important, most of the work of the veteran tea tasters is all about maintaining the status quo to ensure that your cup of Earl Grey or Darjeeling tastes the same as it did yesterday, and last march, and eighty years ago. No “New Coke” style fiascos for the Twinings lot who seem to have a very strong “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude when it comes to their established formulae.
Wandering around the room there were tables set up showcasing model breakfasts from the 20s to the modern day. From colonial Kedgeree to rationed “victory loaf” to orange juice and smoked salmon it was fascinating to see just how much our expectations have changed. Bananas that would have been a shocking extravagance in the 40s are now a cheap and accessible option whilst the wartime breakfast of powdered egg and carrot jam could easily pass as a work of groundbreaking molecular gastronomy today. I loved all the different tea services on display as well, they really helped to set the scene, and there were several sets I would have very happily had at home myself!
After a while we moved on from breakfast of the past to “breakfast of the future” (which sounds like the most boring sci-fi ever). After seeing how much our eating habits have been affected by political and social change so far I was fascinated to think what might have an impact in the next few years. Climate change is of course one of the major concerns as we may have to bid farewell to delicious but unsustainable ingredients like pork and beef. Several alternatives were proposed such as smoked duck bacon (which looked very tasty) and a Chinese style tea-infused egg. We were also presented with a rather daring take on the traditional muesli which featured rolled oats, nuts and dried fruits, ant eggs, crickets and meal worms! As stocks of meat dwindle insects are apparently likely to become a major source of protein since they are easy to farm and high in nutrients. Whilst I was initially a little squeamish actually these were pretty moreish, especially the crickets which were crunchy and slightly salty, I could definitely imagine snacking on a bag of them at the cinema!
I’m one of those people who often just skips breakfast as I always feel a bit rubbish in the morning (although I do drink Twinings Tea of course). However, I left the Savoy that day with quite a bit more respect for just what you can do with the meal that really should set you up for the rest of the day and whilst crickets might not yet be widely available in every supermarket, I’m definitely going to try a bit harder to enjoy it.
Happy Birthday to Twinings English Breakfast Tea- and many thanks for the invitation to attend.