TWG Tea: Brewing up a perfect storm
KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — It’s like stepping into a scene from the movie “The Darjeeling Limited” by auteur Wes Anderson — the rows upon rows of canary yellow canisters filled with strange and rare teas from all over the world, the aged veneer of the mahogany wood chairs, the crisp white linen tablecloth and shiny silver cutlery. You’d be forgiven if you thought you were taken back in time to the heydays of the British India empire.
A closer look though reveals that instead of Her Majesty’s Calcutta, we are seated in the comforts of TWG’s first Tea Salon and Boutique in Kuala Lumpur. Founded in 2007 by Manoj Murjani and Taha Bouqdib, TWG (the initials stand for “The Wellness Group”) has grown from just an idea to selling 650 tons of tea in its first year alone.
Murjani, who is the CEO, comes from the apparel business (his grandfather launched the Gloria Vanderbilt line of sculpted jeans for women in 1979). He first met Bouqdib, then in charge of the renowned teahouse Mariage Frères and now the president of TWG, in Paris eight years ago. Both shared a love for tea and wanted to bring a new concept for one of the world’s oldest beverages as a luxury brand to the world.
Singapore was chosen as their base given its history as an important tea trading post. In fact, the year 1837 which TWG incorporates in its brand logo is the year the Chamber of Commerce was created in Singapore and as such the birth of the tea trade there. From the island, the pair has clocked up thousands of miles around the globe each year, selecting the finest single estate harvest teas and exclusive blends — to date, TWG offers over 800 different varieties.
That’s a rather hefty number to even contemplate so we begin with only three. The Silver Moon is a light blend of green teas enhanced with berry and vanilla, and one of TWG’s bestselling teas. In contrast, the Midsummer Night is a darker black tea, with bolder flavours of chocolate and spice. Our favourite is the Paris-Singapore tea which is a green tea accented with cherry blossoms, giving it a sensual fragrance. It’s a tea we could imagine sipping on while reading a good book in a quiet café.
Interestingly, our tea didn’t get more bitter or thicker with every cup that was poured. Nathan their maître d’ explains that, after steeping the tea leaves for the appropriate amount of time (which differs for each tea), the leaves are removed from the pot so that the flavour of the tea remains constant throughout the meal.
Service is certainly top-notch and all the more impressive given that we’re dining here on their first day of opening. The highlights of the menu for us included their scrambled eggs, redolent of white Alba truffle oil and saffron, as well as their summer quiche, a rustic French version made with seasonal vegetables, accompanied by a garden salad tossed in an 1837 Green Tea infused vinaigrette. Of the desserts, our favourite is the chocolate fondant which is served with a scoop of homemade Vanilla Bourbon Tea ice-cream.
This usage of their own blends of teas in their culinary creations is a unique feature of TWG, something their executive pastry chef, Philippe Langlois, calls tea gastronomy. With over 30 years of experience making delicate pastries and desserts in Paris and Tokyo, Langlois was given the special task of marrying each dish with a suitable tea from TWG’s extensive collection.
At the end of the day though, it’s the tea that remains the real draw here. With hundreds of teas to choose from, you can sit back, relax and take your time to savour each cup of tea as TWG brews up a storm in search of that perfect pot… for you.
* TWG Tea Salon & Boutique, 2nd Floor, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur. Open daily 10am-9:30pm. Website: http://www.twgtea.com/
* Kenny is still in search of his perfect cup of tea. Take another sip and enjoy more of his musings at http://lifeforbeginners.com.