Tea brand Twinings – a subsidiary of Associated British Foods – said that BA research showed that the taste of tea could be reduced by up to 30% at this altitude (10,668m).
With this in mind, flag carrier airline BA commissioned Twinings to develop a proprietary tea blend that tasted as good at over 10km up in the skies as it did on the ground.
BA spokeswoman Victoria Madden told BeverageDaily.com: “Before now we were just serving Twinings in first and business class, and we had various different flavors. But now we’re bringing Twinings to all cabins.
“We’re replacing our existing three pint teabags – to serve several hundred passengers – that we have in teapots with Twinings bags, and the special English Breakfast blend that they have created to work for us at 35,000 feet,” she added.
High altitude boiling point
BA ran a series of ground and air tastings with a 19-strong consumer panel, cabin crew and tea experts, including Twinings senior buyer Mike Wright.
A manufacturing method called ‘cut, tear and curl’ used in Kenyan and Assam teas enabled fast and efficient extraction at altitude, Twinings said; the new blend also includes high-grown Ceylon tea.
Wright said that water on board an aircraft boiled at around 89C (192F), rather than the 100C (212F) that was ideal for infusing black tea.
“The reduced air pressure and humidity affect the functioning of the tastebuds, making things taste different. In addition to this, it was important that the new blend worked well with and without milk,” he said.
Tea quality crucial to passengers
Twinings said it worked with BA to develop a blend that satisfied the taste demands of a global audience but retained a British ‘background’ flavor, with a bias towards full-bodied Assam.
“After extensive in-flight testing we found that a combination of Assam tea for body and roundness of cup, Kenyan for briskness, refreshment, brightness of cup, and high-grown Ceylon for flavor and lightness,” Wright said.
BA first established a supplier relationship with Twinings in December 2011, and Madden told BeverageDaily.com that tea quality was extremely important to passengers.
“Tea is intrinsically British, and when people fly with BA the minimum thing they expect is a really good cup of tea. We have been serving good tea, but we felt we could make it even better," she said.