Thursday, 5 June 2008

Tea is the new wine

If your idea of tea and food matching stops and starts with dunking a Digestive in a scalding mug of Tetley then a new exhibition may change that.

A small but informative exhibition on Chinese tea opens today (Weds) at Asia House in New Cavendish Street, London W1 at the start of a national tour (0207 7303 5454, £4). As well as tracing the 3,000 year-old history of tea there are displays of types of tea and exquisite porcelain tea sets.

A temporary outlet of Camden’s Chinalife tea mixology bar offers fresh brews to sample from its stock of more than 70 teas. Try jasmine tea with goji berries that plump up in the cup, popcorn tea, a green tea from Zhejiang province with roast brown rice, or a seasonal iced tea with jasmine, elderflower and mint. All go well with yam flour cookies.

“Tea is now rightly being treated like wine, with serious tea lists in hotels and restaurants that note harvests and vintage. Like wine the microclimate, soil, picking, processing and storage are all vital parts of the production of tea. It is a gourmet beverage that pairs well with all types of food,” says Don Mei, tea connoisseur and creative director of Chinalife (0207 307 5447).

For summertime, he recommends a chrysanthemum tea for its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties. Its delicate fragrant notes partner seafood dim sum or counteract the spiciness of fish with chilli.

The Tea Centre at Tregothnan in Cornwall offers a range of tea tastings and tutoring days (see previous blog; 01872 520000). Earl Grey and Cornish Yarg any one?

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