Anyone for tea

Anyone for tea

Spanning a variety of aromatic flavors and herbal infusions, created from leaves grown in the ancient gardens of China or Taiwanese mountains, tea is much more than a breakfast accompaniment or afternoon ritual. We asked four experts to share their thoughts on the perfect cup of tea, new trends and how the future’s shaping up for this ever-popular beverage.

Blending and harmonizing
There is an art to blending which demands respect for tea. Tea that is made in the traditional, orthodox style is blessed with the sense of place, the influence of soil, climate and local ecosystem, and expressed in specific aroma, flavor, texture and appearance. Combining tea with flavors requires multiple trials to harmonize them. Our most popular teas are our Ceylon, Single Origin tea, our Breakfast and Earl Grey teas, although we are seeing interesting trends in the tea category with a new and more adventurous generation.

Pairing potential
Traditionally, tea aficionados in the Middle East appreciated leafy teas with bold appearance and an earthy flavor, although that is changing. As a three-generation family of passionate tea growers, we look to present a variety of tea, working with luxury hospitality operators in the region to offer teas from different regions of Sri Lanka.

Gastronomy and mixology making waves
Benefiting from a natural synergy with food and key ingredients, tea has proved to have exciting potential for gastronomy and mixology projects. Since our first events, we have seen growing enthusiasm for tea paired with food. We have also worked with mixologists around the world to explore ways of combining tea with different terroir and other natural ingredients, spirits and methods to produce tea cocktails. These trends are engaging a new generation of tea drinkers who are attracted to tea for its natural, plant-based goodness, variety and purity. Tea lovers are able to enjoy the experience of fine tea and fine food, which, together, offer an almost magical harmony in taste.

Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company PLC

Preparation is key
When choosing tea, knowing where it is sourced from and how it is grown is essential. I take pride in personally visiting each tea farm and sourcing organically grown teas tea directly from the farmers, even though this can be challenging. Drinking tea is a very personal experience and when choosing what to serve to customers, various factors require our consideration, such as their mood and how they are feeling at the time. How the tea is prepared and served is crucial in offering the best experience – the temperature, the water quality and the steeping time all play a vital role in highlighting the best characteristics of each tea.

Regional varieties
At Chawan, we specialize in sourcing Japanese teas from different regions to offer an experience that juxtaposes flavors based on each tea region and growing method. These include Sencha from Aichi, Kagoshima or Yame prefecture. In addition, we also source Chinese and Taiwanese teas.

Getting creative
Although Matcha remains the focal interest across the tea community outside of Japan, tea-based mocktails are trending, offering an attractive choice on menus for restaurants and cafes. Aware of this, we provide a tea menu creation as part of our service at Chawan, which includes developing signature tea-based drinks to complement the theme of the restaurant or cafe we work with.

Tea master and sommelier,
Founder of Chawan Japanese Tea House

Going with the mood
I believe tea is a great mood enhancer and social tool for uplifting the spirit. In selecting teas, our team considers the time of day it should be taken. The perfect brews for mornings are teas that help induce energy and focus, while epicurean teas suit midday and teas that help with digestion and calming are perfect for evenings.

Extensive selections
We have a wide range, from white teas and green teas to Oolong and then specialty teas. We also have tisane, which are herbal infusions and caffeine-free teas, and are a great addition as an antioxidant alternative. Our house tea at The St. Regis is the Wuyi Oolong from the Huangcun Garden in Fujian, China, which is known as one of the world’s finest terroirs for high altitude Oolong. It is harvested mountainside in the autumn to preserve the aroma and gets its complexity from the mineral riches in soils and high altitude. Characterized by the fresh fragrance of rose, peach, fragrant wood and caramel, it has a buttery sweetness.

New trends
Artisanal, high-quality teas are becoming more popular, while rare, exotic, small batches from unique growing areas is the future. Teas with health benefits and mood enhancing ingredients are on the rise, as are cold brew teas.
Provenance is becoming the major driver of listing teas, with fairtrade and ethical farming practices at the core of any
new company selling teas. Organic and biodynamic teas are also in high demand. On a business level, tea subscriptions have become a fast-growing trend, helping to introduce unusual and sometimes exotic teas to an untapped market.

Multi property beverage manager and sommelier
The St. Regis Downtown Dubai

The science
A few years ago, I wanted to discover more about the science behind tea leaves. Caffeine is extracted from tea with heat and time, however there is little variation in the amount of caffeine contained in different types of tea. Products labeled herbal teas or tisanes do not contain any caffeine at all, unless they are mixed with tea leaves. Most of our guests are business travelers. In order to help our guests relax and enjoy their stay with us, we offer selections of peppermint, chamomile and lemongrass & ginger options, which are made from other flowers, fruits, herbs and spices.

Big on brewing
Tea is a way in which guests are welcomed and considered the supreme form of hospitality in a variety of cultures. Today, there are many brewing techniques which tea lovers routinely use. My top three are: gong fu cha, concentrated amounts of tea leaf brewed in small vessels for a short period; cold brew tea, which involves pouring water over tea leaf, before leaving it in the fridge for few hours to steep; and western style – the most traditional at home – one big tea pot for gong fu brewing.

A fiesta of flavors
There are six main ways to process tea and these methods create the six types: green; organic; white; herbal; black; and matcha. But even within these different tea types, there can be many nuances of flavor, aroma and texture, creating a fantastic array of tastes to explore. We pride ourselves on offering the world’s finest selection of Jing tea, from the ancient gardens of China to the high mountains of Taiwan.

Assistant F&B restaurant manager
Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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