Time for tennis. Time for Tea.

The UK may be a nation of tea drinkers (and tennis lovers) but we are only just waking up to the delights of loose leaf tea

Updated on

Close map
Time for tennis. Time for Tea.

What does tea mean to most of us today? For many, it might either be a strong mug of "builders" to kickstart the morning, or a rejuvenating cuppa in the afternoon. And more likely than not, both scenarios involve a tea bag. Such a perspective is fine and dandy but the end product probably fails to capture anywhere close to the full flavour, complexity and pureness that a cuppa made with loose leaf tea can achieve.

However, if you've ever had any involvement with a tea sommelier or you’ve experienced afternoon tea at, say, The Savoy, you’ll recognize that tea can be experienced on a whole different level. And if coffee culture can on occasions seem just a tad repetitive, then tea is your compelling alternative, crying out for its enchanting virtues to be enjoyed.

At a breakfast hosted at the century-old Sloane Club, Jing's head of tea, Tom Price, has just returned from West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. This region is renowned for its prized tea, now safeguarded by PGI status. He has been establishing strong relationships with local farmers, ensuring he secures the finest teas while also providing the farmers with much needed financial stability. This support, he contests, is crucial in a world where climate change and the commoditisation of tea pose significant challenges to their whole existence.

Much like a Bordeaux winemaker, Tom is evangelical about terroir and place of origin. He talks passionately about the need to channel more money direct to these artisan producers in order to enjoy great tea in the future. He suggests that they will simply not exist in future if they cannot make a living out of their tea gardens and if the commoditisation of their product obscures the higher level of tea that exists in these farms.

Jing Tea

So is the proof in the drinking?

With the Sloane Club chefs briefed to craft a menu that pairs perfectly with the teas, the first offering is a honey blossom papparoti. This sweet, gooey bun, reminiscent of a delicate roti flatbread, oozes with custard and boasts a malty crust. This bonne bouche brings out the more subtle flavours of Jing’s single origin Assam tea, revealing complementing notes of malt and honey. Assam tea, it is explained, is a fully oxidized black tea, widely celebrated for its robust, malty flavour, medium-to-dark amber hue and smooth aroma. It boasts being one of the most widely enjoyed teas around the world, alongside esteemed varieties such as Darjeeling and Earl Grey.

The next breakfast delight is a deliciously fluffy, savoury cake, infused with South Indian flavours, which serves as a delicious canvas for an aromatic lobster salad with mango and a sorrel pesto. This dish was beautifully complemented by the spring-fresh notes and roasted hazelnut sweetness of Jing’s Organic Dragon Well tea sourced from the aforementioned West Lake in Hangzhou. Unlike the fully oxidised black Assam tea, this green tea is instantly dried on a hot wok to ensure minimal oxidation. When brewed lightly, it offers a delicate, light and fresh grassy flavour, with no astringency: a delightful pairing with food or a deliciously delicate drink on its own. The secret is in not over-brewing the tea.

For the final course, the chefs presented a Chantilly, artfully shaped like a damask rose, featuring lychee and cocoa flavours, with a subtle yet distinctive Middle Eastern touch. This exquisite dessert was paired with an Oolong garden tea from China’s Wuyi mountains. Partially oxidized, Oolong tea strikes a wonderful balance between the freshness of green tea and the richness of black tea. Renowned for its floral and fruity notes, this particular beverage has a reasonably rich and buttery profile, enhanced by caramel sweetness and subtle floral hints of rose and peach.

And with Wimbledon upon us, perhaps there is no better time to explore the wonders of loose leaf tea. 

The tasting took place at the Sloane Club (www.thesloaneclub.com) and was organised by Jing Tea (www.jingtea.com)

Breakfast at Sloane Club

Join SquareMeal Rewards

Collect points, worth at least £1, every time you book online and dine at a participating restaurant.

Start Collecting Points

Already a member? Sign in