Unique British Tea Taster is a Woman - 1922

Miss Margaret Irving Has Distinction of Uniqueness in This Work in Great Britain and Is Deemed an Expert in London.

Staff Correspondence
London, June 10, 1922.

Miss Margaret Irving, Who Has Won Unique Fame as a Tea Taster

Miss Margaret Irving, Who Has Won Unique Fame as a Tea Taster

In the private sampling room of a well known firm of Rood Lane, wholesale tea dealers, is an intelligent young woman tea taster who, be sides having a fine reputation in the trade at her own particular job, holds the distinction of being the only known woman tea taster in London, or indeed the whole of Britain.

Miss Margaret Irving has been tasting tea for the London firm for the last three or four years, and her efficiency in this direction is such that she now ranks with the most expert tea tasters of the metropolis.

When the correspondent called at the Rood Lane premises the other afternoon, Miss Irving was busy with three trays of samples, from dust and fannings to orange pekoes and golden tips.

On the floor of the large tasting room were arrayed large flat kettles on gas rings, and at one end of the long bench was a score or more of china teapots and infusion bowls.

Clad in working overalls, Miss Irving was hard at it, placing values on the various infusions in readiness for the firm's buyers, whose business it is to attend the tea auctions in Mincing Lane four times a week and buy tea on the strength of the tasters' recommendations.

Miss Irving is in love with her job—which probably has something to do with her efficiency. She is very modest about it all. She does not think it unusual for a woman to compete with men in a responsible job of this nature, and does not think that a woman, by reason of her natural love of tea making and tea drinking, is better fitted to judge of the subtle qualities of the various teas shipped from India, Ceylon, and other producing countries.

One expects to find in a job of this kind an elderly, dignified and severe person with spectacles and an overwhelming sense of their own importance. Not so with this young woman.

She has blue eyes and bobbed hair—and she isn't stout. She is not the only tea taster in the firm, of course; but all the rest are men. On busy days around 300 samples of tea are tasted.

In discussing her work Miss Irving said that no tea tasting was done by artificial light, since the brightness of the infused tea leaves could not be properly gaged.

The value of a particular blend was arrived at as much by the color and appearance of the infusion as by the taste. When ready to taste, the tea from the many samples supplied by the brokers when the consignments arrive at port is weighed out in intricate scales, in which the weight used is a farthing (a coin of the equivalent of a half-cent). The infusion from this is a little under a pint.

The pointer on the dial of a little clocklike machine fastened to the wall is fixed at the 12 o'clock position as soon as the water boils. This pointer travels around the face of the clock, taking six minutes to complete the circle, when a bell rings.

This is the signal for the taster to get busy. By this method of timing infusions there is no fear of a sample being done an in justice by under or over brewing. There being no guesswork, all samples receive the same treatment.

Miss Irving starts her day's work about 9 a. m. (the usual office hour in London), and finishes between 5 and 6 p. m. Saturdays she is done early in the afternoon.

During London's very dark and foggy season the tea tasters carry on the best they can; but if it is so dark that artificial lighting is necessary tea tasting is sus pended for the time being. In connection with this difficulty Miss Irving says that some tea dealers here are now experimenting with a new type of electric lighting apparatus whereby it is hoped to get imitation daylight so that tea tasting may not be interrupted.

Miss Irving prefers the large bowls when tasting, in place of the minute cups used by many tasters of the metropolis. These are three times the size of ordinary cups.

Although it is usual for men tasters here to say that the continual sampling of various infusions day after day and year after year is detrimental to health, Miss Irving says she experiences no ill-effects.

Although these infusions are not swallowed, being only rolled around the tongue, they are stronger than the ordinary brew one makes in the home and are adulterated by neither sugar nor cream.

Brooks – Staff Correspondent, “England’s Woman Tea Taster,” in The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, New York: The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Co., Vol. 42, No. 7, July 1922, p. 88-92.

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