TEA TIME

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

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

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.

“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, lit­tle­known 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 14 th 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 greenand-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.

Af­ter­noon tea served daily; 60 pounds per per­son plus ser­vice charge. Brook Street, Mayfair dis­trict; +44 (0)20 7629-8860.

Through July 31; 677 yuan ($100) net for two per­sons. 63/F, 2 Jian­guomen­wai Street, Chaoyang dis­trict; 010-8567-1795.

Daily through July 31; 348 yuan plus ser­vice charge. 167 Dagubei Road, Heping dis­trict; 022-5857-8888.

Daily through Aug 31; price varies on week­days, week­ends. 103/F, In­ter­na­tional Com­merce Cen­tre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon dis­trict; 852-2263-2270.

A Ja­panese touch

Closer to home, the Park Hy­att Bei­jing this sum­mer is giv­ing its If you go The Lounge, Park Hy­att Bei­jing Lobby Lounge, Ritz-Carl­ton, Tian­jin Cafe 103, The Ritz-Carl­ton, Hong Kong 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-be­missed 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 RitzCarl­ton 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.

Con­tact the writer at michaelpeters@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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).

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