If you have a tea brand that you drink all the time, you probably know it intimately. Presumably you continue to buy it because you like it. After all, the whole idea of a brand is that you know what you are getting. Living in the global world that we do, you might expect these consistencies to carry over country lines. However, whether unfortunately or fortunately, this is not always the case; many brands do not market exactly the same blend of tea in different countries, even if it is sold under the same blend name.
One example of this that I have noticed is Twinings Earl Grey. I am very familiar with Twinings Earl Grey from the UK, and I notice that Twinings Earl Grey from the states has less flavour and is not as strong. And Twinings is not the only brand of tea that I have found to be weaker in the states—most black teas never seem to brew up as strong a cup as their British counterparts.
Consider this statement from Twinings USA: “while Twinings is an international organization, every Twinings blend is customized based on the local markets due to the difference in demographics, the water used, and the difference in consumer taste pallet.” So, perhaps the general American prefers a tea that is not as strong (before I offend any American strong black tea lovers out there, let me stress the word general—I am fully aware that many Americans enjoy, or even prefer, a strong, full bodied brew).
One reason for this general palette preference might have something to do with the use of milk. As the British take their black tea with milk, a stronger brew is more desirable because the milk balances any astringency. However, for Americans, who more often drink black tea without milk, a stronger brew is often too bitter. In addition, because a large percentage of black tea is prepared as iced tea in the states, it is even more likely that it would be drunk without milk.
Clearly, this doesn’t work so well for those American tea drinkers who do take milk with their tea, or who just prefer a strong brew. But I suppose you can’t blame tea companies for catering to their market. And perhaps, in the end, it is a good thing that there is a (relatively) localised tradition of tea blending in some of the major brands. It makes a nice change from the global, one-size-fits-all approach that operates in so many other areas of modern life. Ultimately, it means even more varieties of tea out there on the market, which has to be a good thing, right?
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