The Other High Tea

Earl Grey is always a good choice! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)
Earl Grey is always a good choice! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

I don’t fly much anymore – not that I miss it. Given the state of commercial air travel these days I’d rather eat my own foot than have to fly somewhere. But some time back, when I was still jetting around every once in awhile, I recall taking a longish flight to somewhere – the details aren’t important.

What stands out in my memory was that the tea selection was decidedly unexceptional, as I was expecting. The best I could manage was a bag of black tea of a brand you’d probably recognize, but which I wouldn’t ever drink in my everyday life. But, given that I’d been without tea for what seemed like an eternity, this otherwise unexceptional variety tasted like an elixir of the gods and I was happy to have it.

Depending on what airline you choose these days you might have better luck when it comes to tea. This is hardly meant to be an exhaustive survey of airline tea, but rather just a few highlights that I’ve run across lately.

At British Airways their recent efforts to upgrade the quality of their tea service has been a high profile effort, with articles running in what seem like hundreds of media outlets, such as this travel site. The gist of the thing is that tea prepared and served at high altitudes can be rather problematic and so the airline commissioned none other than Twinings to come up with a solution to the problem.

Not to be outdone, Singapore Airlines recently announced that they have, as one airline site put it, “launched a new English Tea service for business and first class passengers on selected flights between London and Singapore.” In addition to those cute little crustless sandwiches and the like, passengers will also be served “No.16 Afternoon Tea and No.42 Earl Grey tea blends from Harrods.”

Perhaps it’s only fitting that the Chinese airlines get in on this sort of thing, given that China is the birthplace of tea culture and the world’s top producer of tea. In August of 2012, Xiamen Airlines announced that it would open a “tea classroom for flight attendants. As this press release from the airline noted, “The instructors explained the types, characteristics and origins of typical modern tea and also introduced Fujian specialty tea and its growth environment, tea picking process, health functions, and methods of preserving, tasting and brewing.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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One thought on “The Other High Tea

  1. Black tea needs water at 212 deg F. As airliners are pressurized to 9,000ft (with the notable exception of the still grounded Dreamliner) and as water boils at 195.5 deg F at 9,000 ft it is impossible to get a decent brew of black tea on an airliner, be it from Lipton or Harrods. Green tea is the only tea worth drinking on a plane – fat chance of finding green tea in coach class..

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