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Chai Society

There’s far more to tea than a bland mug of builder’s; Imbibe samples the Rare Tea Company’s finest flavours – and not a tea bag in sight


The tea taste test

Imbibe decided to put some of Henrietta’s teas to the test with a panel of some of the best palates, including Nick Strangeway, Charles Vexenat and Stuart Hudson (bartenders at Hix), Jared Brown, Anistatia Miller, Katie Exton (The Square), Douglas Wregg (Terroir) and Desmond Payne, Beefeater master distiller and the man who decided to use tea botanicals in Beefeater 24.


MALAWI ANTLERS

This tea from Malawi is made from the antlers – the velvety stem of finely plucked shoots – rather than the leaves of the tea bush. The antlers are particularly good for expressing the terroir of the Satemwa estate.

£12.95 per 50g pack

Our panel said: A beautiful amber tea with hints of peach, hay and blackcurrant leaves. It tastes delicate and very refreshing, while being pleasantly light on tannins.


WHITE SILVER TIP

Made only from the spring bud, this tea is extremely delicate yet rounded. A high mountain tea, it is dried in the sunshine and undergoes no other processing. This allows the tips to retain a gentle sweetness combined with fresh grassy flavours.

£6.20 per 25g pack

Our panel said: Lovely notes of freshly cut grass and more earthy, yet sweet stable aromas. Perhaps even a slight mushroomy character.


JASMINE SILVER TIP

The finest spring buds are scented over six nights with fresh jasmine flowers. Boasting a heady aroma with a very soft flavour, this is simply the finest jasmine tea available anywhere.
A perfect after-dinner tea or palate cleanser between courses.

£6.20 per 25g pack

Our panel said: ‘Glorious,’ said one. Others praised the tea for being fragrant and heady without being too pretty or oily. The exotic almost fruity notes would infuse well in milk and jellies.


GREEN LEAF

This whole-leaf tea is one of the highest quality green teas available. Carefully hand-crafted in a wok, this tea has the subtle aroma of wood smoke from the charcoal used to fire the wok. The flavour is clean and refreshing when infused for two minutes. Steep for three to four minutes for the deeper notes.

£5.20 per 25g pack

Our panel said: Quite grippy (in fact too astringent for some) with a long finish and a subtle smokiness that would be excellent with food – sushi, a bacon sandwich or salmon and scrambled eggs. A steamed leaf green tea proved even more popular with its funkier, seaweedy flavours that were felt to be great for mixing.


OOLONG

Oolong is crafted to an exact point at which the leaves reveal their hidden subtleties. It has rich floral aromas leading to a perfectly balanced mineral finish. Also delicious served chilled.

£6.20 per 50g pack

Our panel said: Seriously good. Subtle flavours of buttery pastry, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios, hints of honey and rosewater with a clean, refreshing finish. Would be great with dessert.


MEGHALAYA CLOUD

This fragrant black tea from India comes from a tiny farm in the cloudy hills between Assam and Darjeeling. With a light and floral character, it also enjoys rich caramel and malty notes.

£9.95 per 50g pack

Our panel said: Very popular with its mix of fruity ripe mandarin and acacia honey flavours, building to a more earthy, tannic finish that was mouthwatering.


EMPEROR'S BREAKFAST

A satisfying, complex breakfast tea that comes from China.

£6.50 per 25g pack

Our panel said: ‘Delicious,’ was Desmond Payne’s verdict; nutty with a beautifully balanced, full flavour. Leather, brown toast, molasses. ‘Almost like a cognac,’ said another.


TREGOTHNAN EARL GREY

The first-ever English tea, grown at Tregothnan in Cornwall established in 1335. The delicate tea is blended with a top-quality Assam and scented with bergamot. It has no heavy chemical flavourings that are sometimes used in lesser teas to disguise inferior leaf.

£9.50 per 50g pack

Our panel said: Markedly different to the Earl Greys we’re used to, with excellent, floral and citrusy bergamot notes and a subtle natural sweetness.


LOST MALAWI

This strong afternoon tea comes from the highlands of Malawi. Picked from rare varieties and carefully crafted, it’s deeply satisfying and richly complex. The sort of tea that our grandparents would have enjoyed.

£6.50 per 50g pack

Our panel said: Malty, buttery and comforting, could be the grown-up version of a builder’s tea. Robust, but not too tannic, with smoky mushroom notes that would be a match for milk.


One shot or two?

After all that tea, we needed a stiff drink, so Nick, Charles and Henrietta got mixing…

TREGOTHNAN MARTEANEZ
by Charles Vexenat

1 heaped barspoon of Tregothnan Earl Grey tea leaves

35ml Beefeater 24

35ml Dubonnet

5ml maraschino liqueur

Dash Peychaud’s bitters

Dash Angostura bitters

Lemon twist

Method: Pour the gin over the tea. Stir very rapidly for a good 30 seconds allowing the alcohol to draw out the flavour of the tea. Add the Dubonnet, stir again, then add the maraschino and the bitters. Then stir on ice and strain through muslin. Serve with a lemon twist.


HIZ BREAKFAST
by Nick Strangeway

2 heaped barspoons of Lost Malawi tea leaves

50ml Compass Box Hedonism whisky

25ml Lillet white

Spray of tea-infused vodka*

Orange twist

*Tea-infused vodka
5ml vodka with one teaspoon of tea leaves infused for one hour

Method: Put two heaped teaspoons of tea in 10ml of hot water. Stir for 20 seconds and add 50ml of whisky and Lillet. Shake with ice and strain. Serve with a small orange twist, then spray the surface with the tea vodka and discard the twist. Serve with a slice of freshly made char-grilled toast with butter and orange marmalade. The protein in the butter binds to the tannin in the tea, softening the flavour. The char of the toast brings out the oakiness of the whisky.


GIN PUNCH A LA BURROUGHS
Based on a recipe from Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks by William Terrington

3g Rare Tea Company Whole Leaf Green Tea

50ml Beefeater gin

10ml fresh lemon juice

20ml pineapple syrup*

Pineapple to garnish

*Pineapple syrup
Peel and chop one large pineapple. Bring the pineapple chunks to the boil in a pan with 300ml of water and 300g of sugar. Leave the fruit to infuse overnight.

Method: Infuse 3g of Whole Leaf Green Tea in 50ml of hot water for one minute. Strain and reserve the leaves to reinfuse with further 50ml of water. Mix both infusions of tea (100ml)
with the gin and then the lemon and the pineapple syrup. Serve over ice, but wait for two minutes to dilute before serving, garnished with 5mm pineapple chunks.


RARE TEA MARTINI
by Charles Vexenat, Nick Strangeway and Henrietta Lovell

1g Jasmine Silver Tip Tea

50ml vodka

5ml Noilly Prat

Method: Infuse 1g of Jasmine Silver Tip Tea with every 50ml of vodka for 20–30 minutes. Rinse with Noilly Prat. Serve the infusion with a lemon twist.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – March/April 2010

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