A confession: I’m a tea snob. I fuss about it, big time – to the point where, deep down, I don’t really trust other people to make it. When someone kind at The Spectator offers to get a round of tea, I say, ‘Yes please!’ What I secretly think is: ‘But I just hope you get it right this time, Maddy.’
It’s mean, obviously – and I’m told my own tea rounds are considered biennial events, so I shouldn’t complain. But I have a hunch that tea snobbery is a great British affliction, that there are millions of us nationwide – of all classes – secretly judging family, friends and colleagues for all sorts of little shortcomings. Not letting the tea brew for long enough, using water that stopped boiling a full minute ago, putting the milk in before the tea (like wearing brown shoes with a suit). We tea snobs judge a cup, instantly, like a sheikh inspecting a thoroughbred. Some of us even have strong opinions about George Orwell’s essay on making ‘a nice cup of tea‘. Namely, that his method would produce undrinkable black stew (even if he is right that tea makes you wiser and braver).
So along came Twist, a new tea company – set up only last year – with all sorts of weird-sounding blends that they sent in to The Spectator for us to taste. Ever the tea snob, I was immediately sceptical. Then I tried them, and my ‘hmm’ changed to ‘mmm!’ It turns out these are outstandingly good speciality teas for people who really love tea. It’s like Willy Wonka has ditched sweets and chocolate and gone into the tea trade. I can’t get enough of them. In fact, I took a big box home and hoped none of my colleagues would notice. So far, so good.
Twist has expanded quickly. They have six ranges, including chai, caffeine and – my favourite – the Puds Without Sin Collection. These are ‘a genuine alternative to a traditional pudding’, says the website. That’s about right. The best is the banana shake, a mix of rooibos, dried banana (by the looks of things), and I don’t know what other magic (but no sugar). It is wonderful and reminds me of the banana milkshakes, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, my mum used to make when I was little. I have been drinking a pot a day at least. Their other rooibos brew (Mint Humbug) is almost as good, as is the ginger snap – which could just turn out to be a cure for the common cold (tests ongoing).
These are hearty, superbly flavoursome things, and I’m going to keep working my way through the entire range. Next up: Choffee Mint, ‘the Swiss Army Knife of brews’, containing tea, coffee, hot chocolate and peppermint all in one cup. It sounds ludicrous. But as Willy Wonka put it, ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.’ Twist is on to something.