Skip this first part if you just want to read about the tea:
I first smelled this tea in Harrod’s, finding a small, quiet island in the TWG section of the tea department. No small feat, considering it was right before Christmas last year. I sniffed my way through a number of tins and got stuck on the so-called ‘weekend teas’. I snapped a few pictures of the tins and meant to read up on it when I came home, but forgot all about it.
A month later I was in Singapore (I’m sorry for sounding like a demented tea socialite, bear with me), and imagine my surprise when the TWG logo showed up again… and again, and again. I knew nothing about the brand; I’d just assumed it was a trendier spin-off of Twinings, or something.
A quick search yielded the following: TWG is a Singaporean company, carefully branded to be Singapore’s “first and only upscale tea salon”. This was definitely a niche in the Singaporean brandscape that needed filling; tea culture is somewhat lacking, with either imported Japanese concepts where everything is beyond kawaii, or madly overpriced hotel-style afternoon teas.
So far so good, but there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the brand. For instance: the TWG is generally accompanied by the year 1837 on signs and logos, but the brand was founded no earlier than 2008.
This all makes me reluctant, to be honest. Singapore is so entirely about money, all the time; everything anyone ever talks about is money and shortcuts to money and how to get more money and money. I find that depressing, and it’s clear TWG is a pitch perfect Singaporean brand in that respect. They colonize the most exclusive locations, style their shops and salons to the very last detail (tarnished brass and dark wood everywhere), hardbrand the products and charge ridiculous sums of money for everything.
I’m the first to admit I love a good branding effort. I do; I sometimes enjoy giving in and just going with it because it’s done so well, but TWG are just too devious about it, and it’s painfully clear the product is just the sideshow. TWG is all brand and I can’t get excited about that.
Actual tea review:
I added the above to be honest about my TWG prejudice. This is the first tea I’ve purchased from the company, but I’ve tried their products at a couple of their salon locations. I’ve also had their tea-infused ice cream, which is very nice, albeit, again, ridiculously overpriced.
This looks beautiful in the bag, long, whole green leaves studded with red petals. After steeping, the petals turn fuchsia and it’s one of the prettiest steeped teas I’ve seen, colour wise. In terms of scent, well, I didn’t go the adventurous route here – this smells like something I’ve had before, most likely one of those German-imported greens they sell in every tea shop in Sweden. It’s vaguely fruity/floral and that’s it. What more do you need? Fruity/floral is where it’s at!
There are no steeping instructions on the bag, and none were given by the staff (again, one of those things that’ll tell you this is more about the experience and the ritual of shopping, than what you actually purchase) so I did a semi-Lupicia, letting this steep for 1.5 minutes, at 90C. No bitterness, but also not very much flavour – I’m going to try a different steeping strategy next time, not least for you temperature purists out there.
So, to summarize: meh. TWG will not (CAN not) be my new boyfriend (even though I would have loved to get a chance to meme ‘Bye Lupicia!’).
Unlike an actual weekend in Shanghai, this tea bores me.
[Picked up at the TWG Tea Salon & Boutique in Raffles Place, Singapore, January 2015.]