British Airways to Offer Stronger Tea for High Altitudes

British Airways said it plans to introduce tea with with stronger flavor to serve aboard flights to make up for the muting effects of high altitudes on people’s sense of taste.

The carrier and Associated British Foods Plc’s Twinings brand cooperated on the new blends, which will be offered in all cabin classes starting Feb. 1, the London-based airline said today in a statement.

The tea combinations are designed to make up for a reduction of the sense of flavor of as much as 30 percent for passengers flying at 35,000 feet (10,700 meters), British Airways said. The carrier estimated that it serves 35 million cups of tea a year, and said it tested possible taste combinations with 19 people, including customers, flight attendants and culinary specialists.

Water’s high-altitude boiling temperature of 89 degrees Celsius (192 degrees Fahrenheit) is “not the ideal” for preparing black tea, which is better brewed at closer to 100 degrees, Mike Wright, a Twinings senior buyer, said in the statement. Lower air pressure and humidity also reduce the ability of taste buds to detect flavors, he said.

Carriers are intensifying competition, especially for first- and business-class customers, as the European economic slump reduces corporate travel budgets. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. is spending millions of dollars on frills including a cheese trolley and afternoon tea, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG is revising its flat-bed seating to offer 8 percent more space.

British Airways, the U.K. unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, is looking to upgrade its in-flight services with enhancements such as providing staff with Apple Inc. iPad tablets carrying information on frequent fliers.

Passengers will be offered a blend of Assam, Kenyan and high-grown Ceylon teas, with additional Twinings products available in first class and Club World business cabins, British Airways said. The combinations are also designed to taste good with milk, it said.