Yan Toh Heen
Even in Hong Kong, it seems that a beautifully brewed pot of tea—be it a sweet and delicate longjing or a bracing, tannin-rich pu-erh—is woefully underrated, so often so that it's ordered without a second thought in a Chinese restaurant, rather than being seen as a complex drink that can enhance and complement food just as well as a fine Burgundy or Chablis. But that's changing in hearts and minds—and our newest award recognises those who have paid their dues in promoting the art of tea culture.
Tea sommelier Kelvin Ng joined the hotel last year and has since worked tirelessly to promote exquisite teas that stand up to chef Lau Yiu-fai's Cantonese cuisine, culminating in a lengthy menu that gives premium Chinese teas their time in the spotlight. Ng brings together award-winning teas from around the region, noting each for their individual characteristics and health benefits, and plays an active role in guiding guests towards the brews that will best match their chosen dishes.
A supremely elegant Phoenix Osmanthus (a semi-fermented oolong), for example, is recommended for its thirst-quenching properties thanks to its sweet, brisk flavour profile. We're told that the floral, peach-like fragrance of the tea doesn't come directly from the addition of osmanthus flowers, as is done in more inferior versions; rather, it's a natural characteristic of the tea leaves grown at the apex of Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong province. On the other hand, Ng compares the expressive Mandarin Orchid oolong to a fragrant chardonnay— excellent with seafood or cold dishes— and the heartier pu-erh is explained with references to full-bodied reds.
There's no doubt that anyone who steeps themselves in Ng's deep knowledge of tea will emerge enlightened—and, perhaps even more satisfyingly, without a hangover the next day.