Sunday 9 September 2012

MingCha x teakha Tea Pairing Class

Finally visited teakha in Sheung Wan in late August. It has recently started an interesting series of tea pairing classes with MingCha. I was interested in joining the class, yet given the suffocating hotness in HK I had been reluctant to move my lazy ass to Tai Ping Shan Street... until I received Eric's invitation. I decided that an evening in a charming little cafe with my good friends might be what I needed in the face of endless work. 

I was sweaty all over after a walk from Sheung Wan MTR Station to teakha in the roasting weather. When I pushed teakha's glass door open, it was like I had entered another world. The turquoise and whitewashed walls gave the petit cafe a fresh and clean feeling. The wooden communal table and open kitchen imparted casualness to the place, creating a welcoming atmosphere that made every guest feel like home. 

Class began as soon as all the 10 participants had arrived. It was led by Tea Master Vivian Mak, a sweet, energetic lady who is also the founder of local tea brand MingCha. In an animated manner she gave us a basic introduction to the types and manufacturing process of tea, which prepared us for subsequent tea tasting. The small class size made interaction easy - everyone was free to ask questions or share his/her tea-drinking experience. This had certainly made the class more interesting and informative. :)

As the theme of our class was black tea, we were given 4 kinds of black tea to taste. To facilitate comparison, Vivian used a standardized brewing time of 1 minute for each tea. Shown above are the dry leaves of Lapsang Souchong, sourced by MingCha from Wuyi, China. With its unique smoky aroma that results from smoke-drying over pinewood, it's an unforgettable tea for sure... but I really can't say I like this liquid version of bacon. Vivian said Lapsang Souchong was highly sought-after by Western but not Asian tea drinkers, perhaps because Westerners were accustomed to beverages of strong taste (e.g. whiskey). This seemed very true in our class: our Caucasian classmates loved it unanimously while the rest of us thought the taste was too overpowering. :P 

This is another black tea by MingCha: Tanyang Golden Rim from Fujian, China. Can you see the golden rim of the leaves? :) It is a robust black tea with hints of fruitiness. I thought it was pretty decent. :)

Owner of teakha, Nana, shared with us two black teas in her collection. This is Khongea Assam Tea from India. The tea leaves were finely cut as they were CTC-processed (CTC = crush, tear and curl). Vivian told us that because of the large surface area of the leaves, CTC teas infused quickly and required only a short brewing time. No wonder this tea became bitter after brewing for only a minute! 

Finally, we had Forest Black Tea from Taichung, Taiwan. It's lighter than the other 3 teas, slightly sweet but very fragrant, and it has a floral undercurrent. It's definitely my favourite of the day. 

After we had tasted all the teas, we were served a freshly baked apple pie. We were supposed to pair it with the 4 teas by ourselves and see which combination was the best. But since it was already after 7pm, mindful tea pairing had become a mission impossible to us.  Without much hesitation we shoved the tea cups aside and wolfed down the pies right away! :P Sorry, Vivian... but the pie was just TOO delicious! The crumbly topping was buttery and crispy, and there were lots of fruits in the hot pie. The fact that Eric (who hates desserts with fruits) had finished the whole pie quietly was a solid proof of how marvellous it was! ;)

Hungry as we were, how could we be satisfied by the apple pie alone? (At that point, we had completely forgotten about tea tasting!!) Fortunately there was homemade ginger ice cream to appease our growling stomachs. The ice cream was rich and very smooth - unlike cheap homemade ice cream that often contains small pieces of ice - which went really well with the crunchy ginger cookies. The balance of sweetness and spiciness was perfect. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed by teakha's desserts!

Each of us was also served a glass of Indian Chai, one of teakha's speciality teas. I like to have chai with lots of sugar, but teakha's version is largely unsweetened. It's too spicy for my liking, but if you are looking for authentic masala chai it will definitely be your cup of tea. 

Overall, the tea pairing class was a fun experience... although we didn't really spend much time pairing the desserts with tea (obviously the extraordinarily delicious desserts were to blame :P), it was great to try different kinds of tea under guidance and have some seriously scrummy desserts! Just 2 humble suggestions for Nana's and Vivian's consideration: 1) distilled water, instead of water infused with lemon, should be used for palate-cleansing during tea tasting; 2) snacks can be provided to guests before tea tasting so that they do not have to drink tea on an empty stomach. Indeed, when people are less hungry it may be easier to engage them in tea pairing. ;P 

Last but not least - thanks Eric for the invitation. It's wonderful to have friends who love food around me! :D

teakha (website)
Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Opening hours: 11:00am-7:00pm (Wed - Sun)
* Visit teakha's Facebook page to get updates about upcoming classes and activities!

MingCha (website)
12D Wah Ha Factory Building, 8 Shipyard Lane, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
* Visit MingCha's Facebook page for more updated info about the company!

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