Tea blender's taste buds insured for a fortune

2014-11-26 21:33
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London - Insuring the taste buds of a master tea-blender able to identify brews from 1 500 different plantations shows that Britain's preferred beverage is on its way to matching the sophistication of wine, an industry luminary said on Wednesday.

Tetley, the world's second-biggest tea maker after Unilever, took out a £1m policy to protect the mouth of 32-year-old Sebastian Michaelis.

"Most major tea companies have people with the same skill set," Irene Gorman, spokesperson for the UK Tea and Infusions Association, said.

"There's now a tea to suit everybody's taste. It's like wine. It used to be white or red and it's become more sophisticated and tea has become more sophisticated."

Michaelis, who served a 5-year apprenticeship, leads a 47-strong Tetley tasting team that sips, savours and spits out nearly 40 000 cups of tea a week.

"Blending tea, like blending whisky or champagne, is a fine art," Michaelis said. "First I examine and grade the colour, size and density of the leaf. Then I assess the brew's purity of colour [its sparkle], the weight of the tea in the mouth [its body] and the overall liveliness of the tea on the palate [its zing]."

The 165 million cups of tea that Britons drink each day contain up to 35 different teas and to stay the same in character and flavour through the seasons, need people like Michaelis to supervise the blending.

Britain is second only to Ireland in per capital consumption of tea.

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