Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TWG Tea Salon

Singapore-based TWG (i.e. The Wellness Group) Tea Company, aims to bring in top-quality single-estate teas and to promote the appreciation of the finest teas available in all parts of the world. According to TWG managing director, Mr. Aum-Stievenard, the wide variety of teas are achieved via the spontaneous effort to build rapport with tea planters. So some of the teas available in TWG are exclusive access to the finest harvests.

TWG (Republic Plaza)

What caught my attention was when I first saw the ambience this place has to offer in 8 days last year. The first impression obtained from TWG's dining area is the neatly arranged old-fashioned painted tea containers in the warm timber cupboards. Adopting a Continental-style dining atmosphere with the use of Bone China dinnerware, TWG aims to bring tea drinking to a different level.

Dining area of TWG (Republic Plaza)

Flipping through the tea menu presents an astonishing selection of more than 300 varieties and blends from around the world and the fine concoction of in-house blends such as floral white tea and chocolate tea are only exclusively available at TWG.

Dining area of TWG (Republic Plaza) II

The tea are served in uniquely designed teapots. To ensure that the tea is warm even after 1 hour, the Bone China teapot is housed in a shiny metallic casing, cushioned on the interior with black fabric to prevent heat loss. All the fine details to tea brewing such as the temperature of the water, the seeping time and its timing to remove the tea leaves are carefully monitored to maintain consistency of flavour. What surprises me was the use of cotton filters and the release of tannins beyond each tea's seeping time contribute greatly to the outcome of the taste. These gourmet teas are also not served with milk and only pure crystalized sugar are used to ensure the unalteration of taste. Extreme acidic lemon slices are a definite no-no but Mr. Aum-Stievenard recommended orange slices as a less-acidic option.

Iced Sexy Tea and Hot 1837 White Tea

Apart from the teas, we are also keen about the cakes and patisseries. What makes it different from other places is that most of the bakes are uniquely infused with tea. In fact, Executive Chef Philippe Langlois has been attributed with the invention of tea gastronomy in France. So there is no way we are going to miss out the tea infused macarons as well as the Singapore Surprise, which are extremely popular.

Since we have no clues of what to have, we have settled with a Celebration tea time set ($28++) which comes with
  • a pot of TWG Tea (of your choice),
  • a selection of four fine finger sandwiches,
  • a choice of 2 homemade tea pastries (selection ranges from Earl Grey infused Madeleine, Matcha Tea infused Financiers, Muffins or Scones) or 1 patisserie
  • a choice of 3 macarons (see previous post for the flavours)
Finger sandwiches

The assortment of finger sandwiches includes foie gras, smoked salmon, shrimp and crab mayonnaise served with green salad and house vinaigrette. The wholemeal bread is lightly toasted with slight nutty crisp crust and has a soft inner part. According to the staff, the bread is freshly baked by the chef daily. The fillings were lightly marinated and the moisture content was just right to prevent the bread from turning soggy.

Singapore Surprise

Instead of choosing 2 tea pastries, we have settled with TWG specialty, a wild strawberry and pastry cream tart, Singapore Surprise ($8.50++). This is highly recommended for its refreshing and strong vanilla mousse which is the result of the vanilla Bourbon tea. The torched caramelized sugar eaten together with the vanilla mousse and berries has just a good mixture of sweetness, sourishness and a punch of vanilla. The tart pastry to complete the contrasting texture is worth every bit of your $8.50.


For the macarons, we have originally settled with the 3 recommended flavours, Napoleon tea (Black), Rose and Praline (Dark brown) but Mr. Aum-Stievenard was kind enough to allow us to sample all 6 flavours. A complete breakdown of each flavours can be found here.

TWG Tea Chocolate Fondant

TWG TEA Chocolate Fondant ($10++), is a melting chocolate cake served with a light caramel cream infused with vanilla Bourbon Tea. Mysteriously, this bears close resemblance to the sticky date pudding except that it was covered with chocolate. This should be eaten hot or the sticky feeling may be a put off. The combination of caramel, chocolate and tea was a little extreme for our taste buds and poor Yuan couldn’t really make out what he was eating.

Creme Brulee

Instead of the regular Crème Brulee ($10++), this is a refreshing twist to the traditional French Confection where Jasmine Imperial Tea is introduced. In a way, the introduction of tea into this dessert, makes it a little less sweet than the usual ones.

All in all, this was indeed an eye-opening experience for us, particularly when we are introduced alittle to tea processing and tea brewing. Definitely looking forward to our next chi-chi high tea session or should I say dinner given the time we reached the place.

Anyway, Timeless Facade happens to have an entry on TWG Tea Restaurant last Saturday.

TWG Tea Salon & Boutique
9 Raffles Place, #01 - 22
Republic Plaza
Singapore 048619
Tel: 6538 1837


Missbossy said...

I wonder how long this will last... Didn't Tea Spa already prove Singaporeans prefer coffee???

Fen said...

Coffee might have appeal to most, probably due to its strong aroma, higher caffeine content and the convenience of grabbing a cup from Starbucks or Coffee Bean...

I guessed tea with a long history involves some form of appreciation (given the variety) and some countries termed it as art. In fact, some of the Chinese tea outlets are still surviving... while the concept of Matcha is slowly coming in to Singapore... It is all about accepting a new idea...

Well, they have survived for close to a year at pretty high budget operations, wish them the best...

SLYuan said...

I guess there is a following for Tea in Singapore. In fact a friend of mine was quite into tea however when asked him about local tea brewers, his impression was like - it will not be as good as those from traditional tea producing countries. So the other factor could be Singaporeans' perspective towards local brands rather than tea itself.

fatpig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fatpig said...

Can I just ask what local brand of tea exists in Singapore? I believe TWG imports teas from all over the world so it isn't a local tea brewer?

I believe TWG isn't doing enough to market itself. I am guessing its currently using a market skimming strategy IMHO, which doesn't exactly appeal to the masses until further down in the product life cycle.

SLYuan said...

correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that although all tea leaves are imported but it is up to the brewer to flavour it.

To address your second point, I do not believe that they are adopting a market skimming strategy. I spoke to their Managing Director with regards to their pricing when I was there. I understand that prices of tea leaves are not that cheap and he quoted that TWG have priced similar tea at 20% lower compared to fullerton

IMHO, the real problem lays in that the market size is too small. As in the people who appreciate tea is too little. That is why they now have tea appreciation sessions on certain Tuesdays. Whereby they intend to educate customers on various tea.

fatpig said...

Tea leaves need to be flavoured? Sorry but this is the first time I'm hearing about such a thing, but then again I don't know much about tea, I just drink quite a bit. :P But I do know that basic earl grey tastes the same in all parts of the world I've been to and so does Long Jing. Unless you are talking about the specifics like Russian earl grey, french earl grey etc, which have minor variations in taste and aroma. If thats the case, I'm not sure if TWG imports the tea leaves and flavours it themselves or import lock, stock and barrel from overseas.

Yes tea leaves aren't cheap, but they are not that expensive either. Maybe you should take what the MD says with a huge pinch of salt. Businessmen aren't exactly the most honest people you will find :) $10 for a pot of earl grey isn't exactly "mass" pricing. From a marketing perspective, surely you will realise that perception is what is important, not reality. If I, as a tea drinker, think that $10 is expensive for a pot of earl grey, what will the mass market think?

I am sure TWG did their market research before they opened for business. The market may be small, but they are probably banking on the niche segment. Honestly I think that TWG's marketing contradicts itself. How can a gourmet tea place intending to cater to mass market tea drinkers open in an upscale place like republic plaza or have china bone saucepans and tea cups?


Fen said...

Hi Fatpig, I guessed what Yuan meant by flavoured is TWG's tea blends. There are a variety of teas which are blended with oil extract and chocolate. So although the tea leaves are obtained from various parts of the world, some are just rolled and fermented while others are mixed with oil extract, etc. For instance, the sexy tea I had is a form of white tea with citrus fruits incorporated.

As for pricing, their tea leaves aren't overly priced, some of the tea leaves which my daddy bought are pretty pricey, about $20-35+ for 10gm and those are just Oolong and green tea. Matcha powder are also priced about $10-35+ depending on the grade and are often sold at only 5-10gm.

As for MD Aum-Stievenard, he has previously worked in tea factories for more than 20 years and to him, tea is not only a job but a passion. Whether it is marketing gimmick or a sincere conversation, it is always a privillege to hear from people of a different industry. At least, that is what Yuan and I have enjoyed through the experience.

$10 maybe expensive for a pot of tea but people are paying >$6 to $12 for a cup of coffee and >$12 for a glass of alcoholic cocktail, the price of any items can only be gauged based on one's interest and liking. For me, I am one who won't splurge on clothes and bags but I am willing to spend >$6 for a slice of cake (when accumulated, Yuan and I do clock >$1k credit bill).

As for TWG's business strategy, I guessed I am in no position to comment but at least I know TWG does not just stop at having the 2 stores (Republic Plaza and Takashimaya) but a factory at Macpherson which involves in import and export of tea.

Nevertheless, it is nice hearing from your perspective though.

fatpig said...

Hi fen,

as mentioned earlier, I am no expert in tea but I drink alot of Chinese tea and it helps that I have some rare teas at home as well =)

Please allow me to point out something about perception. Would you as a mass non tea drinking consumer, pay $10 for tea if I as a tea drinker won't even pay $10 for tea. As you rightly pointed out, yes different folks different strokes. People spend on different stuff. But I believe you are missing the point I am trying to make. TWG wants to bring gourmet tea to the masses, which is kinda like their mission statement (I read it off somewhere). How are they going to hope to attain that if the prices of their tea are not within the reach of the masses?

Maybe I am cynical but I've met my fair share of CEOs and MDs who claim to have a passion for something (I'm sure they do) but along the way they lost that thought and became infused with greed. Look what has happened to corporate America now. Short term gains, long term pain.

Fen said...

Hi Fatpig,

Actually, I did point out to the MD that I did find it expensive to pay $10 for the tea but the pricing of their tea leaves are reasonable. In fact, I also mentioned to him that the place is pretty posh to attract crowd unlike Starbucks and Coffee Bean where people can just walk in and grab a drink.

From my understanding through the conversation, he told me that some of the hotels in Singapore use their tea and each pot is priced $40. I haven't been to those places so I am not in the position to comment. As for their mission statement, their way of bringing gourmet tea to the masses is via tea appreciation workshop and probably introducing a weekly set lunch to attract the working crowd.

I know where you are driving at and I guessed time will tell whether this is a successful approach.

However, as a consumer, I will go back more for their desserts than their tea since those are pretty rare and are nicely done.

ice said...

Tea leaves have more caffeine than coffee beans by raw weight.

Fen said...

Oh, that is surprising to know of. I guessed my tea knowledge is limited to green tea and iced milk tea, thus I always have a misconception that only coffee will keep me awake...

Thank you for pointing out.

Marigold said...

Ooops it happens that i read the comments here.

Lesson101 about Tea's:

First, the caffaine level of tea is higher than the coffee beans by raw weight?...
ANS: Its not true. dont you know that there are 6 types of tea. such as BLACk tea, GREEN tea, BLUE Tea, Yellow Tea, White Tea and Red Tea.

other info.

White is the the least caffaineted. if coffee will makes u awake.white tea will makes u relax and sleepy.and its good for ur skin-coz its high in anti oxidant!
must try the Yin ZHEN!!!-the rarest white tea.even some chinese didnt know that this tea exist!
Only CHINA produced this tea.

and hey there's the red tea only from south africa. which is ZERO CAFFAINE.!!- pregnant woman and kids would appreciate it.

YELLOW TEA- the rarest tea in the world.only harvest once a year.and hell only limited to 300kg a year. and you need to have some connection to get the real YELLOW TEA!!

BLACK TEA. its True that CAFFAINE LEVEL of SOME black tea can be compared to a coffee... SOME OKEI,Black tea producing country like:
-Sri lanka

Green tea.- only japan and china produced green tea.

BLUE TEA. also known as OOLONG. before only china and taiwan produced this tea. but now even thailand have their own.and its really good.

and this different types of tea have different way of preparing. so if you did brewed it in proper timing, method.- you sure will appreciate the tea......

Fen said...

Hi Marigold, nice to read you on my blog. Actually, I am not really a tea drinker. I went to TWG for the tea-infused desserts.

Frankly speaking, before my visit to TWG, I didn't know the existence of blue tea. Interestingly, these various "colours" of teas are actually due to the degree of fermentation and other post-processes such as rolling.

Hmm... is there a difference between the Lipton red tea and the zero caffeine red tea from South Africa?

I thought yellow tea is not a breed but rather a different way of processing the tea leaves (see below about Pu-er (普洱茶).

Yea, TWG did emphasize on the seeping time of tea. When the tea is brewed beyond the seeping time, tannins is released and the original taste of the tea is altered.

Anyway, really glad to read what you have posted, just to share with you what MD Aum-Stievenard told me about tea.

--- About TWG ---
One reason why TWG does not have any plantations is that weather varies and the harvest will differ from batches. In the event of bad weather, TWG can choose not to obtain the tea leaves from the tea planters and thus has no obligation to keep the batch of tea leaves.

Also, TWG obtained their tea leaves only after tasting the tea when meeting the tea planters and not just a call to place a bulk order.

--- Tea ---
Some of the information he has shared with me, not sure if you are keen to read on...

Oolong 乌龙茶 and Tie Kuan Yin (铁观音) are actually the same type of leaves. The leaf has a unique shape like a dragon. What surprises me further is that the difference lies in the degree of fermentation. Oolong 乌龙茶 which adopts the Taiwan way of fermenting, about 70% while Tie Kuan Yin (铁观音) which is closer to green tea adopts the Chinese way of fermenting, about 15%. Both are considered blue tea. On the other hand, Pu-er (普洱茶) is a form of yellow tea which is achieved by keeping the tea wrapped up, warm with steam. The colour will slowly turn to yellow and the taste of the tea is said to be smoother and sweeter.

The volcanic soil in Japan is suited to cultivate green tea and the leaves are generally bright green. On the contuary, altitude in India results in a different climate are more suited for black tea (I think, can't remember).

GniP said...

I'm looking for this TWG for weeks. Anybody know if we can buy from the salon? I'm interested in the loose tea - the fruit and herbs one.. Please advise!

Fen said...

I am not sure if there are branches in Malaysia but TWG are located at Republic Plaza (Raffles Place MRT, as shown in the pictures), Takashimaya basement and a new branch is opening soon at Orchard Ion.

They do have loose tea and the selection can be seen from their website.

ivan said...

I think FatPig has never purchased 30-year-old Pu'er in her life before. :)

It's unfortunate that she thinks that the price you pay at TWG is only for the tea per se.

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