BA tea blend

High tea? A new tea bag for British Airways

As everyone knows airline food is an oxymoron, with most of it more often endured than savoured. Airlines know this, and are coming up with new products to make dining and imbibing more palatable for passengers. The latest is from British Airways (BA), which has just unveiled a new tea bag developed specifically for use at 35 000 feet or 10 600 metres.

According to reports, the perfect cup of tea is promised, with or without milk. BA serves up 35m cuppas a year, so that promise will be put to the test.

Twinings has developed the new Signature Blend of tea with BA that took to the skies at the start of February and is specially designed to taste better at high altitude.

After a series of ground and air tastings with a 19-strong consumer panel, cabin crew and tea experts, Twinings says it came up with an apt blend: a combination of Assam tea for body and roundness of cup, Kenyan for briskness, refreshment, brightness of cup, and high-grown Ceylon for flavour and lightness.

A manufacturing method called ‘cut, tear and curl’ used in Kenyan and Assam teas enables fast and efficient extraction at altitude, Twinings adds, while water on board an aircraft boils at around 89ºC, rather than the 100ºC which is ideal for infusing black tea.

There is some scientific basis for creating a tea bag solely for the skies. BA research shows that the taste of tea could be reduced by up to 30% at 35 000 feet. And it is well documented that the way food and drink tastes at altitude is different than it does when you are on the ground.

Cabin pressure decreases the volatility of the molecules that you can smell, while the cabin’s dry pressurised atmosphere makes the mucous membranes swell up. Your sense of smell (which makes up 90% of your sense of taste) is diminished, and so is the sensitivity of your taste buds.

In 2010 research for Lufthansa by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics examined how flavours changed during different flight conditions. It concluded that your sense of smell onboard is equivalent to having a cold. Because of this, the foods best suited to high dining are spicy ones such as Thai and Indian because that spiciness doesn’t change.

Souce: The Economist/Daily Mirror