As a tea hobbyist, I always like meeting people from the tea industry to gain insight into their work. As fate would have it, I recently made the acquaintance of Mr. Theerasaj Phangmuangdee (or Dew, for short), one of the two Twinings Tea Masters from Thailand. He was in Singapore last month for the Twinings pop-up festive store launch, where he conducted a tea-tasting session with plenty of graceful cupping. I managed to have a short conversation with him while he was in Singapore.
So Dew, how did you become a tea master?
I’ve actually only been a tea master for just a few months. Before that, I was a wine sommelier and bartender at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok for four years. Most of the Twinings tea masters are from London, but because Twinings is setting up a 40-seater tea boutique in Bangkok, they decided to train two Thais as well for this job. There are some similarities between my old job and this one, but I’ve been amazed at how many new things I’ve learned during my training with Twinings.
What is tea master training like at Twinings?
Well, a tea master from London came down to train us. For one, we covered the theory of tea, such as how tea is planted and how to taste tea. At the same time, I also had to learn about the history of Twinings, which goes all the way back to 1706, as well as tea retail. The most enjoyable part of the training was learning tea blending, which will be a huge part of my job in the Twinings Tea Boutique in Bangkok. There’s so much to learn about tea – and I think my job is to just keep on learning and learning as much as possible. My greatest discovery so far is that there are hundreds and hundreds of teas out there with so many different types of tastes.
What is your favorite tea?
First Flush Darjeeling from Namring. This high-altitude tea has a sweet, subtle taste.
What is the scope of your job as a tea master at the Twinings Tea Boutique?
First, I’ll have to make sure that the tea served there meets an impeccable standard by ensuring all the staff steep each tea properly. Secondly, I’ll be offering blending services to guests who want their own tea blend – I’ll ask them about their lifestyles and preferences in order to come up with a customized tea that suits their tastebuds. It’s quite similar to coming up with a cocktail actually! Thirdly, I’ll strongly promote the 40 single-origin teas that we serve to our guests. One reason why the boutique was set up in the first place was to educate tea drinkers about the wealth of good tea from all over the world.
What’s next for you, Dew?
I’ll be going for further training at the Twinings Headquarters in London!