TWG Tea: A new way to drink tea

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When a Parisian tea blender decided to set up shop in Asia, he was warned about the challenges that lay ahead. Today, however, business is booming. Craig Butcher talks to TWG Tea founder Taha Bouqdib from his headquarters in Singapore.

 

Taha Bouqdib dreamed of creating the world’s most luxurious teahouse, continuing a thousand-year tradition of tea selling, but knew he’d have to do it in a new way.


“We decided to do something that was timeless, that was old but not something for your grandparents. The product could be young, traditional, and also change every six months, like the fashion industry. We decided on Singapore because it was roughly in the middle of Asia.


“When we opened in 2008, we had the world financial crisis. It was amazing because our store was full – bankers and CEOs were coming in to have a cup of tea and to come up with some solutions. When I saw that, I made a decision to go big, globally, immediately. Today we have 50 Tea Salons & Boutiques in 15 countries, and we distribute to more than 40 countries around the world.”


But there was more to it than just good timing, particularly in a city where restaurants routinely provide tea for free. “I am very proud of my first blend. We launched in August 2008, during the [Chinese] Moon Festival. I created a blend called ‘Silver Moon’ – a mix of Chinese and Japanese green teas with some rare red fruits from southern France. It was an amazing success. We printed 14,000 labels for the first month, but sold it all in the first week. Eight years later, it’s still our most successful blend.”


Ingredients are impeccably sourced – Sicilian bergamot from Italy, rose from Grasse in southern France, blue cornflower from Provence. No chemicals are used. Taha buys directly from specialist tea gardens. “I can see with my own eyes how they treat people, that they’re happy.” Many of the teas are organic, “But we don’t mention this because we don’t want our customers to think our non-organic teas aren’t as good.”


At Hamad International Airport, more than 450 kinds of TWG Tea are available. When the full-concept Tea Salon & Boutique opens in the city of Doha in October, there will be more than 800 varieties of fine harvest and exclusive tea blends to choose from.


“It’s not like tea used to be,” Taha says. “It’s a new way to drink a cup of tea.”


TWG Tea selection is now available in Marmalade Market at Hamad International Airport in Doha.

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