Famous Tea Taster Noble Fleming Passes

NOBLE FLEMING, 1919-2012

One of the most influential tea tasters of the past century died last week. Noble Fleming was 92. A native of Wales, as the head taster for Royal Estates Tea, Fleming was arbiter of teas purchased for the Thomas J. Lipton Co.

''Toby was legendary; he held one of the most powerful positions in the industry,'' said Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA. Royal, a Lipton subsidiary, negotiated with thousands of growers globally for the right tea leaf to blend into the nation’s top selling brand. Fleming got his start in India as a 19-year-old apprentice to Lipton’s chief taster at that time. In 1946 after serving in the Indian Navy during World War II he was transferred to the United States.

Until his retirement in 1983 Fleming ruled the company’s tasting room in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Each day he would taste hundreds of teas, clearing his palate with the bit of an apple and filling spittoons with spent tea. Royal maintained an extensive network of agents worldwide who would then bid on his choices.

Simrany told the New York Timesthat Fleming “was responsible for training many other tea tasters who went on to become renowned in their own right.''

Source: New York Times