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Tea time

By Mike Peters (China Daily)    11:09, July 04, 2017

Afternoon tea and treats (clockwise from left) at Park Hyatt Beijing, Ritz-Carlton Tianjin, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong and Claridge's hotel in London (below). Photos Provided to China Daily

Whether you're at Wimbledon or a Beijing hotel, a spot of tea can be just the thing on a summer afternoon. Mike Peters reports.

The beverage is White Silver Tip, from the mountains of Fujian in far eastern China and one of the most prized teas in the world.

But we are not sipping this delicate brew in China. Rather, we're at Claridge's hotel in the heart of London, where enjoying afternoon tea is something of an art form.

Provided to China Daily

"Following special training, all Claridge's waiters are adept at the correct way to prepare the perfect cup of tea," says Henrietta Lovell of the Rare Tea Company. "The exact amount of tea is weighed before being brought to the table along with water at the optimum temperature, which is used to steep the tea to the guest's preferred strength. Once served, the remaining water is drained off the leaves ready for a second infusion - which experts regard as being even better than the first."

Afternoon tea is a year-round ritual in London, but this time of year - when Londoners celebrate the queen's birthday, the races at the royal enclosure at Ascot, and now Wimbledon - may be high season for formal sipping.

London's top hotels have long traditions of tea service. Claridge's has served afternoon tea for almost 150 years, to patrons from titled folks to James Bond to tourists. The current menu features more than 20 carefully sourced teas - Lovell has scoured the globe to find exquisite choices from small, little-known producers that all use sustainable farming practices. In addition to White Silver Tip, the current menu includes the rare Malawi Antler, which is made from the shoots of the tea plant and cannot be found anywhere else in the UK, the hotel says. There is also an Earl Grey from Tregothnan, a walled tea garden in Cornwall that has been producing fine teas since the 14th century.

As absorbing as the tea selection is, my friends and I are at least as focused on what came with it.

Is that real Cornish clotted cream with those fresh-baked scones? Indeed. Also alongside the plain and raisin studded pastries is Marco Polo jelly, the popular tea-infused jam.

The setting is key to the pleasure of afternoon tea as well. At Claridge's, it's served in the grand but light and airy art deco foyer and reading room, on the hotel's signature Bernardaud green-and-white porcelain. A classical pianist tinkles the ivories in the background, on an instrument smothered at one end by a huge pot of mint, which is regularly snipped for peppermint tea by the kitchen staff.

A Japanese touch

Closer to home, the Park Hyatt Beijing this summer is giving its afternoon tea a twist in a promotion with Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake.

It's part of "Art in the Park", a series of events that celebrates hotel founder Jay Pritzker's love of travel, art and world-class food and wine. It's also a chance for the Beijing hotel's pastry chef, George Yin, to show off his past experience in top Tokyo hotels.

Yin's combination of sweet and salty dishes for the occasion includes opera cake, citrus-curd meringue, avocado cheesecake, matcha mousse and champagne berry jelly in presentations that mimic Issey Miyake designs. The sweets are coupled with barbecued teriyaki eel panini, octopus balls and wasabi octopus salad, a broad array that invites mixing and matching to your taste. The octopus balls are not-to-be-missed flavor bombs, with tender tentacles of young octopus tucked into a sphere of delicately spicy daikon.

Romance of lavender

A special lavender-themed afternoon tea reflects the headiest fragrance of summer in the lobby lounge of the Ritz-Carlton Tianjin. The top two tiers of the tea stand feature dainty pastries, with delicate sandwiches on the third level. The chef has specially prepared a selection of sweet and savory appetizers and French desserts with vitamin-rich fruits for early summer, such as blueberries and blackcurrant, to bring out the tea's rich aroma. The teas paired with pastries are sourced from TWG Tea, known for their refreshing fragrance and richness. Freshly baked scones with three selections of jams and clotted cream are an integral part of tea time.

Pastry champion's touch

World pastry champion Franck Michel of France channels the freshness of tropical fruits into a summer afternoon tea set exclusively for Cafe 103 at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.

He fills a soft and airy choux pastry shell with silky-smooth vanilla cream and tropical fruit compote, a blend of the sweetness of pineapple, mango, banana and lime; the choux is then garnished with mango and passion-fruit coulis on top for a nice play of textures. His Hemera Frame is beautifully layered with buttery shortbread, moist almond lemon dacquoise, lemon confit, strawberry coulis, and a generous spread of white chocolate mousse and olive oil jelly. The eye-popping Sawayaka Verrine, a delicate dessert glass of raspberry and melon soup is topped with a Grand Marnier-infused parfait in a chocolate dome shell for a tangy finish of bittersweet orange.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Xiaofei, Bianji)

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